Leading with compassion

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Donnette Truss, business partner at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, conveys calm, earns trust


  • Photo: Storr Todd

Donnette Truss didn’t plan on going into the health-care industry. But her chance decision to accept a job managing billing at a dialysis center led her to a fulfilling, extended career in human resources.

“I took advantage of opportunities presented to me,” Truss said. “And over time, there was no place else I’d rather be.”

Almost 15 years later, Truss has served as the president of the Association of Healthcare Human Resources Administrators of Greater New York and was a 2017 recipient of the Gary Willis Leadership award for her work in human resources management and her leadership in implementing an electronic timekeeping system, a project that affected more than 5,000 hospital employees. Today, Truss’s role at the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital as a business partner has solidified her as an irreplaceable and trustworthy leader at Mount Sinai. “She has earned the trust and respect of the staff across the hospital and health system,” said Christopher Berner, vice president of human resources for Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “She has taught me a great deal, and serves as an aspirational role model for maintaining composure and calm in moments of stress.”

In perhaps the most stressful situation in her career at Mount Sinai Beth Israel — the current internal and external transformation of the hospital — Truss has proven her ability to lead compassionately with a steady vision.

Until a few years ago, Mount Sinai Beth Israel used to be known as the Beth Israel Medical Center. As part of the process to revitalize Mount Sinai Beth Israel, the decision was made to shrink inpatient services, expand ambulatory service and transfer to a smaller facility. Such changes plunged the hospital into a multi-staged process that required employees to transfer to various institutions to prevent any layoffs of union staff.

“It’s a huge change that impacts people’s personal lives,” said Truss, who meets personally with every employee who is going through the process. “It can be an extremely emotional issue for the folks who are transitioning through it.”

In addition to the firm qualities required for overseeing placement decisions, empathy and compassion are essential for dealing with a project of such a personal nature.

“It’s not easy,” Truss said. But to many who know her, Truss has perfected the balance between assertiveness and a kind presence, making her a dependable source of comfort for the hundreds of employees undergoing this daunting process.

To Truss, hearing about the positive effects of her work is what makes it all worth it. “The moments I relish the most are the unsolicited stories of the impact my work has had on leaders, staff and my colleagues,” she said.

But in addition to her achievements in the professional world, Truss’s greatest accomplishment to date is her children, two daughters aged almost 25 and 22. “They are fearless and have such a lust for life,” said Truss. “To have a ringside seat to their lives as adults brings me joy.”

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