As the operations director of infection prevention and control at New York-Presbyterian, Grimilda Mendez-Augsburg obtains resources and coordinates activities to improve patient outcomes by preventing and controlling healthcare-associated infections.
“It’s a very demanding job that touches on every aspect of the hospital,” she says. “But it’s also very exciting. Things are constantly changing, and it’s our task to make sure that the clinicians are kept up to date on new regulations and requirements related to infection control.”
Growing up the daughter of a successful entrepreneur, Mendez-Augsburg always envisioned herself pursuing a career in the business world. So after graduating from Pace University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, she joined her father’s beer distributorship.
Before long, she realized it wasn’t for her.
She decided to apply at New York Hospital for a fellowship designed to introduce minority students to healthcare administration. “I worked at the hospital for three months on projects in various areas – social work, nutrition, business – and then I landed an administrative position there working in the ambulatory care area,” she says. “That was my entrée into healthcare.”
Mendez-Augsburg quickly established herself as a reliable worker and, in 1995, as managed care was reshaping healthcare delivery, she went to work in the hospital’s managed care group. She had, by then, met her husband, a former police officer who had become a firefighter, and in 1997 they would relocate to Westchester. The couple has two sons, seven and 10.
It soon became apparent, says Mendez-Augsburg, that advancement within a university hospital was going to be virtually impossible unless she had a master’s degree. So, in 1996, when she became the practice manager of an off-site AIDS clinic in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, she began to explore opportunities for advanced education.
“I chose the University of New Haven because it offered a good program,” she says, “and it was an easy commute.” An added benefit was the opportunity to learn with and from leading professionals in their fields. “I didn’t want to be in a class with students who had just finished their undergraduate work,” she says. “I wanted to be in classes with other professionals who could bring their experience to the table.”
The University’s EMBA program addressed all of her needs. “My fellow students were very motivated,” she says. “They had a wealth of diverse experience, and we were able to work on some interesting, real-world projects. It was a great education.”
In 2001, equipped with her UNH degree, Mendez-Augsburg became administrative director of the hospital’s radiation oncology department. Three years later she moved to the hospital’s quality and performance improvement area. And in 2006 she moved to her current position, a job with wide-ranging responsibilities given the hospital’s teaching affiliations with Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The hospital employs 18,000 people.
“I would never have landed this job without my University of New Haven education,” she says.