A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Denise Dillard

Denise DillardOften when we are asked to describe yourself in one word, we are hard pressed to do so. Denise C. Dillard, Chief Consultant, of Government and External Affairs for Methodist Hospitals, does not have that problem. She calls herself “authentic.” Her experiences have crossed the areas of profit, non-profit, and public service, with concentration on legislation and public policy. She has been an advocate for bridging disparities in communities, and has assisted in securing over $300 million in healthcare and workforce development funding

Dillard says she is a military kid, born in Oklahoma, but raised in Gary. She says it was God that led her to the hospital. Her preparation included having the opportunity to work in environments that were changing such as Ivy Tech when began looking at community college rather than vocational schooling. Work Force Development programs that had once enhanced labor were beginning to focus on higher education. Her outreach involved displaced workers from an industry that was downsizing, needing to retrain the older worker and retooling people who did not have the necessary credentials although they had gained the seniority. It was a time of making people understand their value and the importance of higher learners and continued learners.

Dillard has a talent for making people comfortable to talk about their issues. She said the importance of how to change performance outcomes was not being talked about or legislated. Knowledge of how to change performance outcomes was needed. She listened, took classes on infrastructure, talked to people to find out what was needed in urban planning, the importance of revitalization of the area, utilizing natural resources and its use as a draw for the economic process.

Dillard said she applied for the vice presidency of Methodist and had limited vocabulary when it came to saying no. Jim Berg who was CEO at the time of her application explained that they were looking for a VP of Human Resource and when offered her the position she asked why and what he felt she would have that would be a winner for Methodist? Methodist was undergoing changes and had made mistakes by not reaching into the community and needed to focus on changing that relationship. Dillard had the ability to look further within the walls of the hospital, not from the industry, but as someone who could give insight on what the hospital should look like.

Dillard came to Methodist at a time when urban hospitals were being targeted and getting a lot of attention. Healthcare was coming under scrutiny, things were tough and the necessary public and financial support was not being offered. The system was undergoing multiple transitions. It was a different filter for her but successful because she did not come with the excess baggage, not owing any political favors, she was authentic.

Dillard brought a different perspective because of being in other places and easily made the comparison. What was supposed to be a five-year journey has morphed into ten years. She has received compliments for being able to see the mission, staying the course while earning the respect of others who refer to her as being a survivor.

Dillard says that her mantra is that there is a preparation for your journey and the resources are there whether we see them or not, you have to be obedient to that journey. She said her mother used to tell her that the wheel grinds slowly but exceeding well. Often times as sinners you make mistakes, but if you believe you do the right thing for the right reason the best way you can and even if you falter on that path, you should stay the course because everyone has their journey. Pray for those who love you and even those who don’t.

Dillard received the Award of Merit from the Indiana Hospital Association. She said it was a humbling experience because you do not always get the feedback or know what people think about you. You do a job and things happen, sometimes without acknowledgment. As she listened to the President of the Association talk about how she brings conscience that makes you aware of what it is like caring for everybody, it never dawned on her that it was part of her spirit. You just do it because it is your passion.

Dillard says the message for other women is that we all have to respect for who we are and that generally is one of the hardest things to do. Women have gone through many challenges, we are good nurturers, good at finding solutions and we have the ability to find what is obvious only to women. Women are better at talking inclusion. Women need to be responsible for bringing in more women and embracing young professionals even as early as high school.

As an international consultant on trauma and early responses, her frontline focus is on issues related to equity in health care. Through her position at Methodist Dillard wants to have more regional discussions on the phenomenal residency program in Northwest Indiana and work on a consolidation of the process that would have all hospitals working together with each accentuating their specialties, ensuring that quality can come together in everyone’s backyard whether a person is insured or uninsured. Each system has its own footprint and a responsibility to the hospital system in this country.

Dillard has a Baccalaureate in Economics and Political Science from Howard University, Washington, D.C., a Master’s in Public Policy Administration, Indiana University School of Public and Environment Affairs, with Certificate in Negotiations, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has received numerous awards including, the Indiana Hospital Association 2014 Award of Merit. Dillard has been married to Major for 27 years, she is mother two children, Erin Dysktra and Lorenzo, and grandmother to 12-year-old Jayden.