We sat down with Kathleen “Kathy” Silard, Stamford Health’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. She holds several other titles—mom of three sons, wife, nurse, volunteer, adventurer—and she’s not afraid to try new things.
Q: Where were you born and raised? Tell us a little about your family and upbringing.
I’m from City Island, NY. It’s a 2.5-mile island on Long Island Sound off the coast of the Bronx with a population of 5,000. It has the feel of a New England fishing village and people who are born on City Island are called clam diggers. I spent my childhood being on the beach, boating and fishing. It was a great way to grow up.
My parents immigrated to America from Ireland via England. They left Ireland separately when they were each 17 due to lack of opportunity there. Here, in America, my father secured his education, ultimately becoming an engineer. My mom worked part-time but mostly took care of my sister and me.
Q: You started your career as a nurse. What fueled that decision?
Eight of my aunts and my sister were all educators and I was always intrigued by science and math. From the time I was 10 years old, I just knew I wanted to be involved in taking care of patients.
Q: What was the most rewarding aspect of being a nurse?
Being a pediatric and NICU nurse, I saw and experienced great scientific breakthroughs of being able to save very sick and premature babies and the unique caring relationships between pediatric and NICU nurses with patients and their families. I was also very moved by the resiliency of children. They can be critically ill one day and bounce back so quickly.
Q: How and when did you transition to management?
I practiced nursing for four years. During that time, my husband was traveling a lot for his company, and I wanted fewer night shifts and weekends so we could see each other more. I was always interested in healthcare leadership and finance so during that period I went back to school for a Master of Science degree from Iona College. After I received my degree, I became the assistant to the president and Chief of Staff at the Jack. D. Weiler Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which was a great way to launch a career.
Q: What do you do for fun?
My husband and I are very dedicated to our family so our social life centers on home and we love to travel. Our three sons played various sports through college so we spent 25 years at hockey rinks and on lacrosse fields. I also like playing tennis, gardening, reading and having a “girls’ night out” with friends. I do love to try new things.
Q: Do you have any favorite books?
I especially like historical fiction. One of my favorites is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, the story of two sisters in France on the eve of WWII. European, Russian and Asian history fascinate me. My nonfiction favorite is The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw that tells the story of strong men and women who came out of the Great Depression to make our country thrive and grow.
Q: Tell us a bit about your community involvement.
There are two organizations that I am involved in. Recently, I was appointed to the United Way of Stamford’s Cradle to Career Advisory Board. This organization addresses the achievement gap affecting school-range students by examining the trigger points, such as absenteeism as well as social and health issues, that impact whether they go on to college. I’m also on the board of the Greenwich YWCA that is dedicated to empowering women and girls and to eliminating racism and domestic violence.
Q: When it comes to being a leader, what is one philosophy you live by?
My goal and philosophy as a healthcare leader is to inspire this organization to achieve excellence in all that we do. I believe leaders must have the highest integrity and, because things are always changing, they need to be agile and flexible. Additionally, it is critical for me to be an extraordinary communicator to take care of and tend to the culture of the organization, as well as lead to it through change.
It’s important for a leader to be collaborative and inclusive and to ask for help when it is needed. Last, but not least, as a healthcare leader all decisions must be made based on what is in the best interest of the patient.
Q: What are the best aspects of your job?
The best part of my job is working with the extraordinary physicians, nurses, and staff at Stamford Health. They are smart and capable and their genuine care for patients is evident in all they do. I am constantly inspired by their “get it done” attitude.
Q: Who are some of your professional role models?
I’ve looked up to smart and dedicated healthcare leaders for inspiration and role model leadership. I always strive to emulate their unwavering dedication to excellence and performance.
Q: What’s the first question that someone whom you’ve just met asks about your job?
“How do you get it all done?” I tell them to hire good people, rely on them to do a good job and check that they do. Communicate, communicate, communicate and be a good multitasker.
Q: Looking at your time at Stamford Health, what are you most proud of?
Some would say that leading the building of the new hospital was my greatest achievement. However, I’m also proud of whatever small part I’ve played in the transformation of Stamford Health into an organization with a culture that embraces excellent quality, has a compassionate and caring environment for patients and has highly engaged physicians and staff.
Q: Please fill in the blanks:
- Never have I ever: jumped out of a plane. But I might someday.
- My mother always told me to: be humble.
- Given the possibility, I’d buy myself and my family: a one-way ticket to a villa in Tuscany.
- The make and model of my very first car was: a Chevy Nova, silver with red interior.
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