What does a chief operating officer do? Blomberg shares her take on the role and how she connects with faculty and staff.
Growing up in Rochester, Minnesota, Emily Blomberg, MHA, was influenced by the world of health care from a young age. And it was the reputation of UI Hospitals & Clinics that drew her to Iowa City.
“What appealed to me is how people say this organization punches above its weight class, and I think that’s really true,” she says. “There’s so much amazing work happening here, and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to join the team and make improvements in patient care better for people that need it. That’s where my heart lies: improving quality and improving systems.”
This past spring, Blomberg came onboard to serve as the hospital’s newest chief operating officer (COO). Prior to moving to Iowa, Blomberg served as COO and oversaw surgical, ambulatory, pharmacy, clinical laboratory, information technology, master campus planning and support services for Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis. She also led the organization’s COVID-19 pandemic response, including its vaccine deployment, and provided executive oversight in the areas of budgeting, capital planning, and employee engagement.
What is a COO?
Blomberg knows that her role is one that many employees may not fully understand. As COO, she oversees the management of patient care operations, ancillary services, and related support services. Working with hospital leaders, department chairs, and others, she is developing and overseeing operational strategies that strengthen inpatient, outpatient, and surgical services. This includes planning to modernize the UI Health Care campus as part of our 10-year master plan.
Blomberg says her role is all about implementation and keeping operations running smoothly.
“My job is to connect all the pieces. Here’s our strategy, here’s where we’re going in the next several years, and this is operationally how we’re going to do it,” she says.
Blomberg’s first months have been spent on listening and getting to know our hospital and faculty and staff.
“I want to understand what the culture is here, who the players are, and what we’re trying to accomplish as a team. There are a ton of things happening at the hospital all the time,” she says. “So, I’m really focused on listening and getting out of the office to meet as many people as I can.”
Growing up in health care
Her father, a health care administrator, and her mother, a researcher in dermatology, instilled in her a desire to give back.
Years ago, Blomberg spent a lot of time volunteering at a women’s shelter in Texas. Seeing the impact she had on those women’s lives has stuck with her, shaping who she hopes to be as a leader.
“My values and beliefs as a person really align with the mission of the hospital,” she says. “And I really love working with all different types of people. Collaboration, getting along with people, and emotional intelligence are all really important factors of being a COO.”
Blomberg says the child-like wonder she sees every day as a mom encourages her to step outside of her comfort zone while also finding joy in the smallest moments.
“As adults, I think we have a lot to learn from children,” she says.
Positive and inquisitive
Lessons of positivity influence not only how Blomberg views her own work, but what she hopes to accomplish for all of faculty and staff.
“I want people to be happy in their jobs and feel satisfaction and look forward to coming to work,” she says.
Blomberg believes as an industry, health care has always faced a number of challenges. But it’s asking the right questions that can help our team focus on how to overcome the greatest of issues.
“I am endlessly inquisitive,” Blomberg says. “If I don’t understand something, it’s a guarantee that I’ll ask a lot of questions. Sometimes we have a hard time prioritizing in health care, because there are so many big initiatives, and they’re all so important. But one thing we definitely learned from the pandemic is that if we focus on one thing, we can do it incredibly well.”