Listening to her instincts has served Danielle Willis well. Time and time again, Willis chose to follow her heart, and at the age of 32 she went from a Senior Financial Accountant at New Orleans East Hospital to Chief Financial Officer in just three years.
“I think through hard work and a pure blessing I was able to find my way into this position at this point in my career,” said Willis.
His non-traditional journey from real estate investment accounting to CFO of healthcare in 2019 shows no signs of stumbling as Willis took NOEH in 2020 to its first profitable year.
“Our motto at New Orleans East Hospital is ‘Once is a coincidence’. Twice is pretty good, but three times it’s a trend, “so that’s what I’m trying to do: get a trend for profitability,” she said.
Willis began her career as an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas, where she audited hospitals, banks and financial services companies. She then moved on to BNSF Railway, responsible for the company’s SEC reporting. Even though she loved reporting work, New Orleans was finally calling her home.
“My husband and I visited the city almost every weekend. I really wanted to be home, ”she said.
Soon after, Willis took a job in New Orleans with Volunteers of America in their real estate division. It was a chance meeting with the former CFO of NOEH on a 5km charity walk – and her subsequent visit to the facility – that led her to make a crucial decision.
“It was actually a step back from my job at Volunteers of America, but I felt so culturally driven when I visited the hospital for my interview… so I decided to try my luck and start at New Orleans East Hospital. “
The devastation in New Orleans East over 15 years after Hurricane Katrina was “shocking” to Willis, and she takes great pride in helping an institution that is vital to this part of town.
“NOEH’s CFO job feels like a real call for service,” said Willis. “After 5 pm, we are the only place in East New Orleans where residents can come for treatment: there is no emergency care, no 24-hour pharmacies. The New Orleans East Hospital is made for this community, and it makes me proud to work there.
Willis says cutting costs and finding additional revenue streams was key to bringing the organization to a profitable position by 2020.
“Lobbying for additional funds to help us serve the community has been a big factor in getting us into the first year of profitability,” said Willis.