“I think lifelong learning and mentoring has been my quest,” Sheila Sferrella claims.
Sheila’s passion for education and drive to learn new things have served her well over her 40-plus-year career in radiology. She trained as a radiology tech at the University of Maryland and joined the University of Maryland Medical System after graduation. By day, she spent most of her time performing neuro CT, MR, and interventional radiology procedures. However, when she wasn’t working, she found the time to earn an MBA from Johns Hopkins.
This Business Administration and Management background would be a vital asset in her success as she moved into administrative and director roles. After nearly a decade with the University of Maryland Medical System, Sheila departed for Philadelphia, where she assumed her first director role in the Radiology Department of Germantown Hospital and Medical Center.
“That’s when I really started teaching myself and learning process redesign,” she explains. “I really was very interested in trying to save staff steps and processes that seemed silly to me.” She also promptly joined the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators (AHRA).
It quickly became apparent that Sheila’s operational redesigns were highly effective. Over nearly 9 years, she worked in two different health systems in the Philadelphia area. Though initially hired as a Director of Radiology, she became responsible for a wide range of allied health departments in both systems.
“I’ve probably managed every non-nursing clinical department in a health system,” she says. One of the things I am most proud of is mentoring managers and always providing the organization with my replacement when I left.
Her next role took her west of Philadelphia to Allentown, PA, where she became responsible for 3 hospitals and 5 outpatient sites as the Administrator of Radiology for the Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Operational and process redesign is Sheila’s first love, and it was during her tenure at Lehigh that she first became more involved with AHRA. She served on the Board of Directors, as the organization’s President, and as the Chair of the AHRA Education Foundation, the organization’s fundraising arm. She also met RCCS President Melody W. Mulaik by attending one of her coding courses. After moving to Nashville to work as the Vice President of Ambulatory Services for the St. Thomas Health System, Melody recruited her to join the Regulatory Affairs Committee as Vice Chair.
At the beginning of 2010, she predicted that hospital reimbursement would slowly be phased out. St. Thomas Health System is a member of Ascension Health, the largest non-profit organization in the country. Sheila served on a team that obtained approval to contribute their hospitals’ outpatient imaging revenue stream to a joint venture with an external radiology group. This lucrative move helped grow St. Thomas and Premier imaging centers from 5 to 27, and from 96,000 exams/year to 500,000 exams/year connecting a larger portion of Nashville patients to the expertise of Ascension Health. It was during this project that Sheila met her current Regents co-Vice President, Raif Erim, as Regents was working for the radiology group at the time.
When Sheila left St. Thomas, she decided to tackle the world of consulting. She worked with hospitals facing unsustainable revenue losses and help them redesign their processes to become profitable. A few years later, the opportunity to work with Raif at Regents presented itself. She jumped at the chance to work with him and, at the time, Bob Maier.
“We’ve always been perfect partners because he’s just brilliant with data, and if I want to build a model, all I have to do is sit with him and say, this is what’s in my head. This is what I want to look at,” she explains. “It’s been great working with him for the years we’ve been together.”
Since the merger with RCCS, Sheila and Raif have continued to work closely with each other. They still handle existing and prospective client calls together. However, she also enjoys exploring new opportunities and connections and building on prior collaborations. Sheila and Melody have known each other throughout the industry for over 25 years and relied on each other’s expertise for various projects. Now, they get to work closely on joint projects more regularly. At the writing of this article, they are collaborating on a new on-site project with a client to help them improve their radiology billing and operational services.
When asked about her favorite part of working at Regents, Sheila says: “What I love the most about the work we do at Regents is, on any given day, I am never doing the same thing as the day before. I like working on multiple projects at a time and having multiple hats in the air.”
Even when working on similar projects with similar pain points, no two clients will ever have the same problems. Working at Regents is never boring. It requires the ability to think on your feet, a passion for learning new things, and a drive to help people.
This joy in diversity and focus on continued learning carries over into Sheila’s personal life as well. Sheila recently moved to Delaware and has spent as much time as she can getting involved with her community. From Mahjong to disc golf, Sheila is always open to learning a variety of new activities. She is also excited to be closer to her family with this most recent move. As she works, her Executive Assistant Lilah—one of her two sweet pups—lies across her lap, occasionally popping her head up to join meetings.