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Intensive Care: Joan Cusack-McGuirk

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When people ask Joan Cusack-McGuirk how she went from being a nurse to becoming president and CEO of St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital (SLCH), she tells them, “It was a natural progression, but not one I could have planned.” 

The Long Island native was a staff nurse before moving to Cornwall in 1979 with her husband, John McGuirk (today a retired state Supreme Court justice). She soon landed a job at Cornwall Hospital (the precursor to SLCH) and advanced to chief nursing officer in 2002. In 2014 she became senior vice president and a year later was named interim president and CEO, a position that became permanent last September. If there’s a secret to her success, it’s that she is always willing to take on challenges, like getting a new, computerized medical record system up and running. “It was a good example for my kids. I told them to try new things and not say no. See what happens!” 

This CEO’s willingness to test fresh ideas has brought positive change to SLCH. Among kudos, it has been designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement by BlueCross BlueShield and was named a Most Wired Hospital because of its information technology infrastructure. It is also more connected to services in the community. “The hospital used to be ‘the hub.’ Today we’re a spoke on the wheel; our patients are the hub.”

Cusack-McGuirk still makes frequent rounds. “I remember being the nurse at bedside, and if someone from administration would ask how your day is going, it meant a lot.”

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