Stephanie E. Mercado, executive director of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), is not one to back down from a challenge, particularly when it involves a mix of interests she holds dear—strategic thinking, association management, healthcare, and healthcare quality.
At the American Orthopaedic Association, for example, she successfully led a 10-hospital quality-improvement initiative to reduce secondary fragility fractures by promoting teamwork among different healthcare providers and educating patients and their families. Then, as associate executive director for the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R), where she was responsible for more than half of the organization’s $10 million budget, Mercado strategically aligned AAPM&R’s physician education and curriculum with board certification requirements to support physicians as they worked to improve patient care. She was also responsible for corporate relationships with pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers.
Now, with NAHQ, she plans to support the role and promote the value of healthcare quality professionals in today’s changing healthcare environment, where quality is increasingly seen as a shared responsibility of everyone who works in a healthcare system.
“I’m good at helping organizations think broadly and define the strategic objectives of their efforts,” she says. “Most organizations have strategic projects that operate independently, with unique outcomes and impact. I enjoy working with boards to align their efforts for maximum impact – both strategically and financially. I tinker with the puzzle pieces within an organization and help boards put them together, developing a unified and cohesive direction for the organization.”
As much as Mercado likes strategy, she is equally mindful of the operational side of business. Streamlining processes, eliminating redundancies, and running operations as efficiently and effectively as possible are important to her, as is promoting the work of the nonprofit sector. “The work of associations is an important business,” she says. “I like the harmony that develops when philanthropic missions are met using business acumen.”
Mercado’s goal-oriented style is hardly limited to her work. Although she and her husband are busy raising two young sons, Mercado is working toward resuming her near daily fitness routine, which includes weight training and yoga. “I like challenging my body and mind–it helps me to stay sharp,” says Mercado, always with a goal and pathway for getting there in mind.