Express Editor Readers have recognized the professionalism and service of Gwen Bonner as the 2016 Woman of the Year. Bonner has steadily expanded her duties and moved up the ranks in her healthcare career, and she has been the chief operating officer at Saint Francis Hospital in Bartlett since 2007.
“I love my job because I take a lot of pride in developing and motivating people,” she said. “We’re not here like a manufacturing industry. We’re here to provide care for patients and their needs.”
At Saint Francis- Bartlett, Bonner has been responsible for overseeing the hospital’s 96-bed expansion project, emergency room remodeling and expansion, and the addition of two interventional cardiology labs. In addition, she maintains direct responsibility for Laboratory Services, Imaging Services, Pharmacy, Rehabilitation Services, Engineering, Food and Nutrition Services, Environmental Services, and Cardiopulmonary Services. She previously served as vice president of clinical services at Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis.
Beyond the hospital’s physical expansion, it’s now expanding its depth and variety of services, Bonner said. “Now I see the hospital as expanding its clinical care. No one wants to come to the hospital and get transferred somewhere else.”
In addition to Bartlett proper, Saint Francis also serves a significant part of the population from east of Bartlett, including Fayette County, as well as Millington and Tipton County.
Aside from her administrative skills, Bonner started her healthcare career working as a clinical laboratory scientist. Her mother died of cancer when she was a child, and she was interested in helping others beat their health issues. She graduated from the University of Memphis as a chemistry/biology major with an emphasis on clinical laboratory. As she progressed, she was asked to work as a director at Saint Francis-Memphis, and her bosses kept seeing her performance and adding new departments under her guidance.
Although administration wasn’t her original career goal, she found that she liked the work and the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people. In her role as COO, she often interacts with physicians, employees and patients. The hours are irregular, but she relies upon her good administrative team, she said.
She’s quick to bring her staff into the limelight and give their contributions due credit. “It’s really not about me,” she said. “It’s about the great staff I have that allow me to be successful in my job. I know that everybody says that, but it’s true.”
She also credits the warm community of Bartlett and its surrounding areas for her successful and satisfying career and for how the hospital has thrived. “What you think about the relationship between Saint Francis Bartlett and the surrounding community, we support this community and the community supports us. I am very proud to be a part of this community.”
Bonner is originally from Bolivar, has been married for more than 38 years and has two children and three grandchildren. In her down time, she loves to read, relax and spend time with her family. Reading is part of her lifelong learning journey, along with learning from colleagues, mentors and others.
“I learn from everybody I work with and reported to—what not to do and how I can do things better,” she said.
The 2016 Woman of the Year honor floored her, and she said she was grateful. “I’m speechless with the honor and recognition,” she said. “… I value that my colleagues think of me that way, and the community.”