In my role as president and chief executive officer of Swedish Health Services in Seattle, I’m constantly focused on excellence. What are we doing well? What can we do better? What is the best path to achieving our goals and aspirations as caregivers and health partners to every patient in every single community we serve? You could say that this is in my DNA. I’m the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, who modeled for me and my siblings a passion for education, bringing our very best to everything we did and a commitment to the welfare of others.
I began my health care career at the bedside as a psychiatric nurse. I followed in the footsteps of my mother, a nurse, who regularly shared with our family the many ways she was inspired by her patients. As a nurse, I cared for people who were incredibly vulnerable and sometimes very ill. Being part of my patients’ journeys — along with walking members of my own family through their own health crises — inspired me to take the next step and become a physician.
I knew I wanted to do more. I wanted to be part of building a health care system that did more for every patient and every health care worker. I wanted to help build a health care system in which every patient could be assured of receiving the best quality care from truly dedicated caregivers — no matter who they were, where they were from or what language they spoke. I also wanted to create opportunities for caregivers so they could follow their dreams the same way I followed mine.
Though my role today is very different being a CEO, I’m informed by the same values instilled in me by my family. As a leader, I’m committed to fostering an environment where every caregiver sees themselves as an invaluable part of our patients’ lives. I want to make sure those same caregivers feel supported in taking that next step in their careers or reaching the next rung on the educational ladder. I know how education changes lives. I am dedicated to helping anyone called to health care succeed.
And I’m committed to our patients of course, whose bravery, strength and fortitude inspire me every day. Whether they come to us for childbirth and pregnancy care, cancer care, heart and vascular care — or one of our many other specialties — I want our patients to know that they are supported by a team that is dedicated to them.
Dr. Nils August Johanson founded Swedish Health Services a century ago with a vision of innovative and comprehensive care, informed by a commitment to education and community. I’m proud to carry on that tradition and lead a team at Swedish that is there for every one of our patients — whether it’s a baby’s first breath or the parent who receives a complex, life-changing diagnosis. I’m proud to lead Swedish Health Services, which is our community’s most trusted health partner at every stage of life.
Elizabeth Wako, M.D., is the president and chief executive officer of Swedish Health Services.