Gladys Lopez, Senior Vice-President for Human Resources at Norton Healthcare, came to Louisville after a long career in human resources in the medical field. Now, she oversees human resources for more than 14,600 employees, nearly 1,000 employed medical providers and about 2,000 total physicians on Norton’s medical staff.
She was born and raised in Chicago but lives here now with her husband, John, and their two boxers, Kashmir and Bruno. She’s enjoying exploring Louisville and learning about all it has to offer. We asked about her busy life and successful career, and we’re excited to introduce you to today’s FACE of Louisville, Gladys Lopez!
How did you come to your job at Norton Healthcare?
I have spent 20 years in human resources management, labor relations, health care, public administration and nonprofit management. Before moving to Louisville, I was Chief Human Resources Officer for Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Director of Human Resources for Provident Hospital of Cook County and Senior Director of Employee Services and Workforce Development for Heartland Alliance. I started out as a lawyer and migrated into human resources. I’m also bilingual in English and Spanish, which has given me an interesting perspective.
Why do you think human resources is important?
Regardless of the industry, human resources is the heart of every organization, and the HR team serves as nonclinical caregivers. We serve and support our employees on their employment and career journey. We are strategic partners on operational initiatives, and we work with leaders to ensure our organizational culture reflects our mission, vision and values. And more than ever, HR must be flexible as we also play a pivotal role in our clinical and financial performance.
What do you like most about your job?
The opportunity to serve, lead and be a part of a great organization at a time when HR is seen and respected as a business partner.
I remember there was an opportunity to work for Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Chicago, which I was already on their board, and it was another opportunity to give back. The interesting thing about Heartland was that they had been in Chicago for 100 years. I loved the fact that they had different kinds of industries under their umbrella. They had a national immigrant justice center, they had legal services, housing, healthcare and workforce development. It gave me the opportunity to reinforce that I really wanted to work in healthcare.
I got a call from a recruiter to work for the county. I am not going to lie — I was like, “I’m not going to work for the government; I’m not going to work for Cook County! Are they crazy?”
In passing, I mentioned it to my mother, and she was like, “Oh my gosh, you have to go work there!” She was very passionate about it. I was like, “Why?” You know, you never realize that your parent has stories. When my parents came here from Mexico, they didn’t have insurance, and she was pregnant with my sister. They went to Cook County Hospital. She said, “I’m not gonna lie, I waited for 10 to 12 hours, but I wasn’t treated as though I’d been waiting for 10 to 12 hours. They were very, very generous with their time.” The first time she went, she didn’t expect to stay there that long, so one of the nurses shared their food with my mom. My brother was running all over, and the nurse could see she was struggling, so the nurse babysat my brother. She was like, “You have to go, you have to give back to this organization!”
I’m like, “Great story, Mom, but I don’t know if I want to work for the government.” Needless to say, Mom won, and I started as their director of HR for one of their hospitals, Provident Hospital, and then a couple of years later, I had the opportunity to be their chief HR officer.
The Affordable Care Act was coming up. It was such a quick change, and we don’t usually experience that in healthcare. But the ACA and being in that type of service-oriented organization really was fulfilling to me. So making the transition to Heartland and then to Norton — 100-year history, being deeply rooted in mission-rich environment and a faith-based service — was a seamless transition for me from an organization perspective. To be able to serve our employees who serve our patients is extremely gratifying.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Forecasting and preparing for continuous change from an employee and business perspective. We cannot afford to be reactive at a time when we have a record low unemployment rate, a growing multigenerational — and complex — workforce, along with expansion in how we deliver and provide care to our patients.
Do you have a mentor? How has he or she helped you?
I have had the opportunity and blessing to have crossed paths with numerous people throughout my life who have supported me in many ways.
Most recently, someone whom I worked with at the Cook County Hospital System, Elizabeth Reedy — she is their general counsel, but she and I worked together and in the transition from being head of HR to Chief Human Resources Officer. She was actually the first person from the senior leadership team to reach out and kind of walked me through the team meetings and the “lowercase P” politics within the organization, as well as some pitfalls and things that I wasn’t familiar with or aware of. We developed a really good friendship in itself beyond just the work life. Even on a personal level in the transition to Louisville, she was able to help me work that through.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy going to plays and concerts. I enjoy the arts and traveling. I did see Dracula at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and I thought it was phenomenal. I saw a few of the plays at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in the Park. You know it’s unbelievable what a beautiful park Central Park is and what a great theater scene Louisville has. I’m taking advantage of all of it. And the quality of the actors is also unbelievable.
Do you do any volunteer work or support any nonprofits that are meaningful to you?
I have volunteered at several Norton Healthcare events, including Splash ‘N’ Dash, Unity Jam and Bike to Beat Cancer. Because I am new to Louisville, I am exploring volunteer opportunities at other organizations, and as a recent graduate of Focus Louisville, I had the opportunity to visit and learn more about several nonprofits.
Do you have any hobbies?
Writing — journaling, mostly. I’ve had several people suggest I write a blog. It’s funny because it depends on what perspective I’m writing about.
And dancing. For me, I really enjoy Salsa, and I think I saw a ballroom class on Ormsby Station Road. I’ve never taken formal Latin ballroom dancing, so that’s actually something I’m going to consider doing. My husband likes to dance, too, but we do the street version of Salsa, not the formal Latin version, but he’s curious to kind of have that training.
What do you read or listen to (books, music, podcasts, etc.)?
I have an extensive music library that includes a variety of genres — pop, rock, Latin, R&B, jazz, hip hop, rap, Chicago house — and I enjoy Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcasts.
What’s something about you that most people don’t know?
I am an adrenaline junkie. I went skydiving a couple years ago, and I actually found someone here at Norton who has not gone skydiving and is interested in going. I’d really like to do that again this year as the weather warms up.
The first time I went skydiving, it was obviously tandem. They tell you don’t look down, well I looked down. The cold air, it really hits you. I didn’t get a chance to pull the cord, but I got to spin myself and maneuver, but I’d like to go back and pull the cord myself and actually lead it. There’s something about it. In Chicago, there’s only a certain time of year you can do it because at 10,000 feet, the air is colder. But I think I’ll have more opportunity to do it in Louisville.
What’s your best advice?
Tell your own story — do not let anyone speak for you.
Name three things, with the exception of faith, family and friends, that you can’t live without.
My kids (my dogs, Kashmir and Bruno), Amazon Prime and a great massage
Thank you, Gladys! To learn more about Norton Healthcare, visit nortonhealthcare.com.
And thank you to Gretchen Bell for these beautiful photos.
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