South Florida Hospital News
Monday August 19, 2019
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July 2007 - Volume 4 - Issue 1

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Lillian Rivera: A Visionary Leader Leaves a Legacy of Excellence and Faces New Challenges at the State Health Department

By all accounts, Lillian Rivera is a sterling human being, nurse, public health administrator, executive and community leader. Under her direction, the Miami Dade County Public Health Department (MDCHD), one of the largest public health departments in the United States, has evolved into a dynamic, exemplary organization that has the unprecedented distinction of being honored twice with the Governorís Sterling Award for organizational excellence. Rivera spearheaded the creation of the Miami Dade Hospital Preparedness Consortium and the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade, two collaborative programs that united disparate organizations to work in partnership for the benefit of the community.

While she is justifiably proud of those achievements, Rivera is not interested in talking about awards and accolades as she prepares to leave MDCHD to begin a new professional venture as Deputy State Health Officer for Florida. Before embarking for Tallahassee, however, and taking responsibility for 67 public health departments, she paid tribute to the 1,000 employees of MDCHD and honored their remarkable achievements in pursuit of a healthier, safer community for all residents and visitors.

"Iím so proud of the employees with whom I have worked at MDCHD," she says. "The true strength of this department is the sense of service within each member of the staff. They understand the mission and have dedicated themselves to it. A person does not go into the field of public health to become wealthy; they go into it because they care about the well-being of the community and about making Miami-Dade County a better place to live and work.

"My role was to align all the departments, engage people and transform the culture into one based on emotional intelligence, organizational agility and pro-active efforts. This is not easy to accomplish in a bureaucracy, but together we transformed MDCHD into a high-performing, world class organization. Our investment paid off, resulting in many positive changes. We reduced staff turnover; we have higher employee satisfaction and higher public satisfaction with the department. The transformation actually affected the lives of the employees; they began to look forward to coming to work."

Riveraís sentiments are echoed in the words of one of those employees, Ann Karen Wellner, RN, BSN, ICCE, Director of Community Health and Planning for MDCHD.

"Lillian Rivera brought enormous improvement to the public health department and the entire region. As a manager, she recognizes talents in her staff and further develops those talents, putting the right people in key positions so that they not only perform at their best, but feel fulfilled and challenged to achieve more. Lillian has a passion for quality that permeates everything she does. We will miss her, but sheĎs going to be a great asset to the state."

Riveraís predecessors in the position of Deputy State Health Officer have been physicians and she will be the first registered nurse to serve the state in this capacity. She has a masterís degree in nursing and has devoted her entire career to public health, a field in which she has been able to have a greater impact than in the one-on-one world of acute care. In public health, Rivera says, "The entire community is the patient." She is also a graduate of the Executive Institute for Community Health Nurses at UNC-Chapel Hill and is a Fellow of the Nurse Executive Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Public Health Leadership Institute.

In addition to overseeing the multifaceted operations of disease prevention, health promotion and disaster preparedness within the stateís public health departments, she will be responsible for the Clinical Management and Practices Bureau, assisting health departments to improve clinical performance and achieve financial sustainability. She will direct the performance improvement process for the Department of Health, using the same Sterling model for excellence that she used at MDCDH.

"My primary role is to assist the Florida Surgeon General, Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros, to execute her vision, translating it through the health departments and into the community," says Rivera. "Iím looking forward to getting to know each of the county health departments; each is different and Iím eager to learn from them. Iím in awe of the smaller, rural ones."

Viamonte Ros is equally pleased to have Rivera on board in Tallahassee. "Lillianís great work at MDCHD, combined with her vast knowledge of Department of Health issues and he desire to improve the health of Floridians, will be a huge asset to the state," she says. "I am excited that Lillian agreed to join our team and help us further our mission of protecting the health and safety of all Floridians."

"Lillian Rivera has been a beacon in the Miami-Dade community since 1990. She is a trailblazer in the areas of public health preparedness, public health nursing and organizational excellence. To me, she has been a personal mentor, and she has touched countless lives. Her passion and talent will now be felt statewide and I wish her great success on her journey."
Nancy Humbert, ARNP, MSN
Vice-president, Planning and Public Affairs
Miami Childrenís Hospital

"Lillian Rivera is a leader for all times. She is an effective, results-oriented manager and a compassionate person."
Sandy Sear
s Senior Vice-president
Ambulatory Services and Community Health
Chief Administrative Officer
Jackson Medical Center

"When I think of the people of greatest vision and caring in our community, Lillian Rivera comes to mind. She cares, passionately and compassionately, about all children having high quality basics. Her leadership has been central to the progress we have made."
David Lawrence Jr.
President
The Early Childhood Initiative

"Lillian Rivera has been an incredible community partner and has spearheaded many initiatives, including the hospital preparedness consortium. She brought institutions together to strategize for all-hazards preparedness. Lillian is very effective in crossing the cultural divide, bridging the gap between public health and acute care, and working on joint solutions. She has set community-wide standards of practice that we can all buy into, and she has played a significant role in reducing infant mortality and promoting health and wellness for all members of our community."
Sonya Albury
Executive Director
Health Council of South Florida

"Lillian Rivera is passionate about her work. She has insight and vision and is a true leader. It has been an honor to work closely with her and share in her many successes. She is joining the team assembled by Secretary Ana Viamonte Ros where she can make a statewide impact. I will miss her."
Olga Connor
Director of Communication and Legislative Affairs
Miami-Dade County Health Department

"As a very active and involved member of our Board of Directors, Lillian Rivera has always given us great insight into the health needs of the community. I greatly appreciate her support of our mission and her contributions to our work."
Mark Buchbinder
Executive Director
Alliance for Human Services

"Lillian Rivera is a visionary. She sees things that others fail to see and one of her great gifts is her ability to see the whole, the big picture; that is one of the greatest things that Iíve learned from her. She can see the political climate and the healthcare climate together and understand how they are intermingled. The consortiums represent her vision and her ability to bring groups together to collaborate."
Ann Karen Wellner, RN, BSN, ICCE
Director, Community Health and Planning
Miami-Dade County Health Department

"Ms. Rivera has been a very positive influence on the staff of this health department and on the community. Her impact has been felt in many areas but one of her most important contributions has been her commitment to the professional development of the MDCHD staff, promoting leadership and management skills. Her vision of making MDCHD a world class public health department is shared by all those who had the opportunity to work with her here. Due to her dedication and leadership, MDCHD is a more efficient and advanced health department today. Thanks Lillian for all your great contributions to this community!"
Fermin Leguen, MD
Chief Physician
Director, Office of Epidemiology and Disease Control
Miami-Dade County Public Health Department

To contact Lillian Rivera, send an email to Lillian_Rivera@doh.state.fl.us.
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