Leadership & Professional Development

CFO Uses Caring and Compassion to Guide Her Career Journey

January 16, 2017 2:39 pm

I love this quote because it personifies my career journey:  

“Success is a journey, not a destination, and the ‘doing’ is often more important than the outcome.”

—Arthur Ashe

Although I didn’t start out intending to work in health care, I was quickly drawn into the this amazing field. Working in health care gives me an opportunity to use my financial skills in an environment in which caring and compassion are at the forefront of the business.

From Nursing to Numbers

I grew up wanting to be a nurse, but working with numbers seemed to be my calling. When I graduated from college, I already had four years of banking experience. I knew that someday I wanted to be a controller and then become a CFO. I admired the individuals in these positions where I worked and could easily picture myself walking in their shoes. 

One day, the personnel director approached me about a position at a local hospital in our community. Her husband was a vice president there, and they needed an accountant. I decided to apply for the position, and the rest is history.

My first mentor, Sister Geraldine Hoyler (HFMA chair, 1989-1990) was a dynamic leader and very mission-focused. She was an incredible role model for me at that early point in my career, impressing upon me the importance of setting high standards for myself and for our finance team, and to hold ourselves and others accountable to achieving our goals. She also highly recommended that I join HFMA and encouraged me to not only attend HFMA meetings but to also get involved as a volunteer. So I did.

Sacred Responsibility

Along my journey, I worked with Chief Nursing Officer Lori Burnell. She was a colleague who also became a dear friend. Our roles were such that we quickly became dependent upon each other. She personally took me through the hospital and gave me a glimpse into the lives of our patients and their families. She showed me that patient care is a sacred responsibility. Together, we partnered the financial and clinical data to directly improve our colleagues’ ability to care for their patients. It was Burnell’s leadership and compassion, paired with her interest in finance, that showed me just how deeply interconnected finance and patient care truly are.

In my current position at Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus, I’ve had the opportunity to work with another strong leader, Ann Pumpian, system senior vice president of finance. Ann retires this April after an esteemed Sharp career of 32 years and leaves behind a legacy of incredible finance leaders whom she has personally mentored through her dynamic and innovative approach to leadership and health care. Ann has motivated me to exceed expectations and meet the challenges of our industry with new ideas. During the past 20 years, she has given me many leadership opportunities, which sparked the innovation and drive to continually seek improved outcomes within our organization.

Opportunities to Grow

My career advancement wouldn’t be complete without the opportunities I’ve experienced through HFMA. I love HFMA and all it has to offer; the leadership growth has been a side benefit to the education and training I received over the years. HFMA provides so many opportunities to get to know people who you can learn from. It allows you to connect with people who can serve as mentors, whether formally or informally, in short-term or long-lasting relationships. It also provides a forum to become a mentor and to share your career learnings with others! Not to mention that the friendships you make last a lifetime! 

I learned early in my career the value of hard work, commitment, teamwork, and compassion. These have been hallmark qualities of most every boss I’ve had, and I’ve embodied them within my own core values. I’ve embraced the opportunity to learn from my mentors and allowed the examples they set to guide my career. I strive to pay it forward to the teams I work with every day.

A few of my guiding principles are:

  • Don’t stop learning.
  • Know your values and beliefs, and let them guide you in your decision making.
  • Find your passion and deliver on it.
  • Pay it forward by mentoring others.
  • Support one another.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Celebrate your success!

My healthcare journey from an accountant to a CFO has been one of working with and serving others to contribute to the success of the organization. and to fulfill the mission of providing high quality care and outstanding service to the patients and families we serve. I’ve been blessed with an incredible journey. As I look back, I realize that the most important part of my journey has been about the people I’ve worked with and the relationships I’ve developed. And as theologian Albert Schweitzer once said, “The purpose in human life is to serve, and to show compassion, and the will to help others.” In doing this, I have enjoyed a deeply fulfilling and successful career journey!

Kari Cornicelli is VP/CFO for Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus in San Diego and is past chair of the national board of directors for HFMA. 


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