Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine sits down with Memorial Health Systems CEO Mike Scialdone and Penrose-St. Francis CEO Margaret Sabin for their take on health and wellness in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine sits down with Memorial Health Systems CEO Mike Scialdone and Penrose-St. Francis CEO Margaret Sabin for their take on health and wellness in Colorado Springs––and how each organization is getting to the heart of fostering a healthier community.

Margaret Sabin

You became president and CEO of Penrose-St. Francis in 2008, and the Centura Health South State Hospital Operating Group president in 2009. What are some of the notable changes you’ve seen in your tenure?

We’ve had an excellent five years of growth and stability, performance, clinical effectiveness and market share. We have been able to do some things you don’t usually see hospitals accomplish. For example, two years ago, we went out into our neighborhood and conducted an eight-month project (featured in USA Today, Sept. 20, 2010), to look at changing health status, with baseline measurements before and after. It was tremendous. People lost 1,200 pounds in the aggregate group. Some went from high-risk to low-risk. At Penrose-St. Francis, we have coaches and a commitment to wellness that is above most organizations.

What are some ways your hospital system is working in and for the Colorado Springs Community?

Quality of care. We are one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals, as determined by Healthgrades, and the only one in the state of Colorado for the past six consecutive years. That means people who come into our hospitals have the best chances in the United States of surviving and having minimum morbidity (associated illnesses). We believe in the power of health—we don’t just talk about it or admire it, we follow up on it.

Where did you grow up/live prior to coming to Colorado Springs?

I lived in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, and worked with Sutter Health Systems. I have kind of a California-Colorado thing going on.

What do you like most about the Springs area?

I like that there is an intentionality toward health, and to me, that’s a ripe field for being the action-oriented organization that can help people deliver on that intent. It’s beautiful—the mountains, Pikes Peak.

How do you rate our city as far as overall health climate?

If it was just where we sit, I’d rate it pretty high. But the fact that we’re deteriorating at the same pace as the rest of the country, I guess I’d rate us a C+. I think we could become a “B” very quickly and move on to an “A.” It’s intentionality.

What particular challenges do people in the 50-plus population face in terms of health and wellness?

I am bullish on health as we get wiser in life. I believe that one of the things you’ve got to do is stay active in body and mind. We have the science to fulfill that vision, that when you’re active and healthy, your body is younger. My greatest passion is helping people understand that they can achieve that––and then giving them the “how.”

How will Penrose-St. Francis help meet that challenge?

In the U.S., 98% of our healthcare budget is spent on acute care and 2% to prevention. At Penrose-St. Francis, we do not resemble that in our budget. We focus on our own employees: If they reach their health metrics, they can get an extra $400 incentive. I want to prove that a healthier population is more productive, with less absenteeism and disability.

How do you see healthcare changing in the next five years?

Our back is up against the wall—we can’t afford what we’ve created. Health reform is going to start to move us in the right direction, but that’s just the beginning. Children of baby boomers are not expected to live as long because of poor lifestyle habits. I intend not to resemble that with my four children or the children of any of the people I work with. We have got to be the role models for our kids.

With the demands of leading a dynamic health system, how do you take care of your own health?

I’m a certified fitness instructor, and I teach classes here. I love to run outside and run three to five miles every day, until my knees start to hurt and I take a day off. I’m very active.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Coffee. I love coffee.

Every day, I want to make a difference. At the end of the day, if I think back and I didn’t make a difference, I go to bed with the intentionality that I will tomorrow. We’re not here to ride on the surf.

Mike Scialdone

2012 was a big year for Memorial Hospital with the voter-approved lease by University of Colorado Health. What does this mean for Memorial and for the Springs?

It means we are not necessarily one of the biggest health care systems in the country, but we are one of the most distinguished. University of Colorado Health is made up of University of Colorado Hospital, one of the top academic hospitals in the country for the past few years, and Poudre Valley Health System, one of the few organizations to earn the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. We have a partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado, which has been named in the top five pediatric hospitals in the country.

Of course, it was also the year you were named CEO. Can you talk about your transition into that position?

I’ve been in healthcare for 25 years, 22 in executive management positions. I came from Florida to work as CFO for Penrose St. Francis Health Services for three and a half years, and then to Memorial as CFO at the end of 2008. My focus was two-fold: financial stability and the ownership/governance issue. The organization was losing $34 million in 2008. In 2009-2010, from an operating standpoint, Memorial made close to $35 million. The question changed from “Should we sell Memorial?” to “What would be the best platform to offer the highest quality of care?” In August 2012, when the vote took place, there was tremendous support to join University of Colorado Health—more than 83% positive. That’s when UCH asked me if I would be willing to stay on in the CEO role.

As a North Easterner and relative newcomer, what do you enjoy most about this city?

I feel very blessed to be part of a community that has a great climate and unbelievable family atmosphere. I’ve got three kids, ages 12, 16, and 18.

How do you rate our city as far as overall health climate?

I think our city, and Colorado overall, is outstanding. That’s not to say that we don’t have work to do. We need to focus on how we keep people well…how we expand beyond the walls of the hospital and find ways to connect in terms of preventive, primary care and wellness programs.

What particular challenges do people in the 50-plus population face in terms of health and wellness?

Cuts in Medicare and Medicaid are going to stem the tide when it comes to the amount that we as a country spend on healthcare. We are fortunate to live where we have so much available to us, but we have bad habits. Changing those habits will help us curb what we spend on healthcare.

What are some of the ways Memorial is connecting with the community?

Memorial offers tools that can give you an indication of your risk for stroke or heart disease ( and The earlier you can find out you have at-risk habits or heritage, the sooner you can start to take the necessary preventative measures.

Any other initiatives for getting out into the community?

We are putting together our strategic plan as we move into 2013. Whether it’s diabetes or high blood pressure, we can connect with that population. We’re in the mode of “How can we expand that?”

How do you see healthcare changing in the next five years?

People talk about the expansion of Medicaid and the increase in the Medicare population with boomers, but the government isn’t going to put any more money into the system. Incentive-based wellness programs and the hospital reaching out to form an infrastructure for primary and preventative health programs is going to be important.

With the demands of leading a dynamic healthcare organization, how do you take care of your own health?  

Believe it or not, over the last year I’ve lost about 60 pounds. I exercise on a regular basis. Being the face of the organization, I am trying to be more conscious about what I do to stay healthy.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I consider myself extremely blessed to lead a mission-focused organization. For me, it’s all about honoring the trust that patients and physicians put in us and creating an organization that is giving the best and highest quality care.