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Personal experience helps leader empathize with patients

Media contact: Lisa Parro, senior public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health,

Bolingbrook – Suzanne Wheeler’s professional expertise prepared her for a job in the business world, where she quickly climbed the corporate ladder. But it was her personal experience that provided ample training for her job at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, where she serves as director of patient experience and process improvement.


Wheeler has spent countless hours in doctors’ offices and dealing with medical specialists since her young daughter was diagnosed with neurofibromitosis type 1 (NF1), a rare neurological disorder, four years ago. Seeing the healthcare system from that vantage point has greatly impacted Wheeler’s perceptions of the patient experience.


“I understand the perspective of the patient’s family because I have a daughter with a very complicated disease that I’ve become the subject matter expert on,” Wheeler said. “My empathy was born of something very dear to my heart. Going through that has given me a deep and powerful connection to our patients and their loved ones.”


Her daughter, Isabella, is now 5 years old; although she’s very healthy, she visits specialists annually. Wheeler was hired as project manager of Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital in 2007, serving as the point person preparing the first new hospital in Illinois to open in 25 years. The job was her first in the healthcare field; that it came a year after her daughter’s diagnosis is an occurrence Wheeler sees as God’s hand guiding her life. She was promoted to her current position shortly after the hospital opened in 2008.


“For me, this job is a calling – a chance to make a difference in the lives of the people around me,” Wheeler said. “They’ve made a difference in my life, too.”


For her commitment to Adventist Midwest Health’s mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ, Wheeler was one of five Adventist Midwest Health leaders to receive the organization’s pillar award at the quarterly leadership development institute June 22.


“Under Suzanne’s guidance and working with the leaders of our inpatient and emergency departments, we have seen improvement in our patient satisfaction scores,” said Jolene Albaugh, vice president/chief nursing officer, Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. “Suzanne is always willing to help when asked, is a good leadership role model and is truly an asset to the organization.”


Wheeler is responsible for overseeing a program that personalizes the care of Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital patients throughout their journey from pre-admission through post-discharge. She also works with hospital directors to improve patient satisfaction scores across various departments in the hospital – not an easy task in the highly competitive suburban Chicago healthcare market.


The hospital’s patient guides and volunteer director report to Wheeler. She also serves as leader of Adventist Midwest Health’s standards team. The team is responsible for developing and rolling out the organization’s standards of behavior for the employees at the four suburban hospitals of Adventist Midwest Health.


Prior to being hired by the hospital, Wheeler was a senior manager, for the McDonald’s Global Business Unit (McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook), where she dealt with worldwide suppliers. She and her family live in Downers Grove.


Pillar award nominations are solicited from Adventist Midwest Health’s senior leadership team. To be eligible, nominees must demonstrate commitment to the organization’s “S.H.A.R.E.” standards of behavior: Sense, Help, Acknowledge, Respect and Explain. They must also demonstrate measurable results on the quarterly goals set for their departments. These goals are organized under the seven categories, or pillars, of spiritual life, people, clinical, service, community, growth and stewardship.



Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.  To find a physician, visit