Executive of the Year, Large Company Executive of the Year: Damond Boatwright, Wisconsin regional president, SSM Health

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Imagine leading 14,000 health care workers and staff through a pandemic in a world that was rattled like never before. At SSM Health – Wisconsin, Damond Boatwright’s efforts led our judges to name him the recipient of two awards this year — Large Business Executive of the Year and the overall Executive of the Year.

Among his accomplishments, he led SSM Health’s growth, innovation, and profitability through several initiatives, including the South Madison Campus, plans for a new Beaver Dam clinic, and a community health integration project with Dean Health Plan.

He’s proud that some gut-wrenching decisions he and the staff have made over the past year, such as reducing elective procedures or keeping a keen eye on finances, were made “with a sense of seriousness and thoughtfulness,” he states. “We’re not trying to punish anyone, but we’re trying to protect as many people as we can so we can all get through this.”

He zigged when others might have zagged after hearing the local community voicing their opposition to a new SSM clinic on South Park Street. Residents feared they would lose, at least temporarily, the only full-service grocery store in the area, creating a food desert. In short order, Boatwright pivoted.

“Here’s the full confession,” he states. “I, along with my organization, had my heart set on the original location on Park Street. Dollars were ready to be deployed because Park Street was, and probably is, still an ideal location for redevelopment in providing us wonderful access. It made perfect sense — from a business standpoint.” In the end, the community came first.

Plans are now on track to build and open a five-story clinic on SSM Health-owned land on Fish Hatchery Road by early 2022. “I believe it was a win-win for all involved,” Boatwright says.

He dealt with supply shortages and fiscal upheaval because there is no “normal” in a pandemic, and his executive team credits Boatwright’s labor management and patient-experience skills as well, noting his ability to lead by example and do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

Boatwright is honored and humbled. “Like many others, I’ve certainly faced several different challenges along the way, but each challenge, difficulty, and obstacle has only strengthened me to make me the person I am today — that is, I hope, a servant-leader who brings out the very best in everyone around me.”

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