Sunday, September 24, 2023

Penn State Health President and Chief Operating Officer Deliver Keynote Address at NAACP Centennial Gala in Lancaster | The Lancaster Voice

Deborah Addo grew up with three siblings in her parents’ home in Washington, DC, and learned from a young age to be competitive and always one step ahead.

“I grew up with three brothers, so I had to be competitive. It was necessary,” Addo said. “I felt like I was always in the mindset of, ‘I can do it, and if I have to, I’ll compete.’ I think that shaped my past and some of the things I wanted to do later in my life,” she said.

Addo, president and chief operating officer of Penn State Health, will deliver the keynote address during the NAACP Lancaster Branch Centennial Freedom Fund gala on Sept. 21 at the Holiday Inn Lancaster at 26 E. Chestnut St. in downtown Lancaster. Tickets for the event are sold out.

Addo said he will talk about his work at Penn State Health, some of the things the NAACP has accomplished, his journey to Lancaster County, his personal story and how it all fits together.

“My father is from Ghana and my mother is from South Carolina. That’s why I always like to say that I’m a true African American. All of this is important to me. We have come this far through faith,” Addo said.

Addo, a Lititz resident, has more than 30 years of healthcare leadership and management experience. In her role as president and chief operating officer, Addo oversees the health system’s hospitals, clinical service lines and acute care facilities.

Addo, 62, previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Penn State Health and interim president of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

While recalling his past and the things that have shaped his life, Addo spoke about how an incident at the beginning of his freshman year at Georgetown University, when Addo had just moved into the university’s dormitory, strengthened his resolve, seen to be and be heard.

“The day we arrived, I realized that my future roommate didn’t know I was black. I was there with my mother and when my roommate and her mother entered the room, her mother said, “I can’t let my daughter stay in a room with a black person,” Addo said.

“I remember thinking about what had just happened, and in that moment I told myself that I would make sure that whatever I did, I positioned myself so that I was ‘in the room,’ so that no one would ever ask me to leave the room again,” said.

Addo believes organizations’ boardrooms should reflect the communities they serve.

“For me it was always about more than just the work I do. It is also the position that I take that allows other people to see the possibilities because when they see you, you give them something and inspire them,” he said.

Addo also said the NAACP has opened doors for many people.

“But I also think we need to make sure those doors stay open so people can be where they belong,” he said.

Addo was named one of the “50 Great African American Healthcare Leaders You Need to Know” by the medical journal Becker’s Hospital Review. His areas of expertise include financial and efficiency management, organizational redesign, strategic planning, physician engagement and population health. According to the National Library of Medicine, lean management is based on a set of philosophies and operational methods that create the greatest possible benefit for patients by reducing waste and waiting time.

Addo earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown University, Washington, DC and a master’s degree in public health from Walden University. She is also a licensed minister ordained by the Church of God.

“I feel blessed to be able to combine my work with my passion and calling and just know that I can be a vehicle for healing, be it physical, spiritual or mental. I feel like I have a trifecta in my life,” Addo said.

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