Bemidji native Sara Lusignan joined the Altru team in February 2019 as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. She brings over ten years of experience in financial leadership and enjoys telling the story behind the numbers. We are excited to have Sara join Altru at this exciting time as we continue to move forward in our bold new era.
We sat down with Sara to get to know her better—as a dedicated, team-oriented leader (and hopeful author!).
Why did you choose to work in healthcare?
I was drawn to healthcare for its mission. I strongly believe in our responsibility to the communities we serve and in delivering high-quality healthcare across our rural footprint. As a leader, it is gratifying to know my work connects directly to our patients’ experience and overall health.
What is your educational background and career history?
I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Bemidji State University and a Master’s in Business Administration with a Rural Healthcare focus from St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. I have been a certified public accountant since 1998 and maintain an active license in the field. As a CPA, I spent ten years auditing governmental units and non-profit organizations. When the opportunity arose to join the health system in Bemidji, I jumped at the chance to use my skillset to make a difference in my hometown. I served as the Controller/Director of Finance for North Country Health Services for seven years, which later became part of Sanford Health. For the last four years, I was the System Vice President of Finance for Aspirus, an integrated health system headquartered in Wausau, Wisconsin with operations in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I am excited to join Altru at this pivotal time and be part of our bold new era plans.
What’s the best thing about your job?
As a finance leader, my job is to communicate financial data in a way that supports operational decision-making. I like to think of myself as an interpreter and I find great satisfaction in helping to tell the story behind the numbers. When I can partner with operational leaders, provide the information they need to understand and improve their operations, and see positive results, that’s a home run for me.
What is your dream job?
My original career plan was to become a college English professor and write books. I think I’ve leveraged my passion for teaching and language into my finance career. When you think about it, financial statements are just another language, so in a way, I’m following the path I originally planned! I still would love to write a book someday.
How do you measure success?
We are successful when we set a goal, achieve it together through teamwork and then sustain performance over time. It is important to measure both quantitative metrics and qualitative outcomes of such as patient experience as we evaluate the success of an initiative. In those instances when we may not reach a goal, we have a chance to learn from our mistakes and apply that knowledge to our next challenge. If we can do that, we have also been successful.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
My husband Brent and I love to be outdoors in the summer and most weekends we like to camp and explore the woods with our Jeep. I also love to read and cook and often try new recipes in my spare time.
Who is your career mentor?
I have been blessed with several mentors throughout my life who took the time to invest in my professional growth, so it is hard to narrow it down to one main influence. My family fostered a strong foundation—a love for learning and a strong work ethic. Several other leaders have taught me different things: analytical skills, the importance of grit in the face of adversity, listening and being fair, and thinking strategically. Learning from these mentors’ collective experience has made me a more well-rounded leader.
If you had an extra hour every day, what would you spend it doing?
My husband and I like to spend any free time we can together. Whether it is catching up on YouTube videos, planning the next camping trip, or just hanging out, we enjoy each other’s company. I also can always find a new book to read!
What has been the best moment of your career so far?
There have been many “bests” in my healthcare career, but if I had to sum up their similarities, it would be accomplishing something hard as part of a team. Whether it was an EMR implementation, improving quality outcomes or implementing a strategic initiative, teamwork is what makes our challenges manageable and rewarding.
Describe your typical workday.
My days include many meetings working as a team on various issues. Beyond that, Altru follows Studer and Lean management principles. This affords me many opportunities to go to where the frontline work gets done, observe and ask a lot of questions, and find ways to support continuous improvement efforts. I am inquisitive by nature, so I really enjoy learning how things work and helping to remove barriers to support operational improvement. I also love that there is no such thing as a typical day!
Three words that describe you?
Committed, curious and collaborative
What advice would you give to someone just starting their career?
Make a career plan, set goals and then put in the work. There is no substitute for experience. Find mentors who are willing to invest in your growth and listen to their advice. Oh, and that plan—expect it to change. Be open to career options you hadn’t thought were a traditional fit for you and be bold enough to challenge yourself in new ways. You’ll look back and likely find the unexpected turns in your career were probably the most rewarding.
What excites you most about Altru’s new era?
Our bold new era represents our commitment to supporting our patients’ needs now and into the future. We must challenge ourselves to transform our services to what our patients demand and deserve. I am excited by the chance to collaborate creatively to form new solutions to meet this demand.
To learn more about Altru’s executive leadership team, visit altru.org/leadership.