By Patti Samar
Sometimes, there is just no escaping the family business.
For Jennifer Montgomery, MSA, RN, FACHE, president and CEO of McLaren Port Huron, the “family business” was the practice of medicine and healthcare.
But go into healthcare she did, and during her tenure at the helm of McLaren Port Huron, she has overseen two of the largest expansions of healthcare services that the Blue Water Area has ever experienced with the construction of the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Port Huron, which opened in July of 2016, and the October opening of the brand new 174,000 square foot, four-story patient tower.
“We designed the rooms to accommodate patients and their support people,” she said. “We asked, ‘what makes it easier for you to be here?’ And we looked to our staff to help determine, ergonomically, what worked for them, as well.”
A graduate of Algonac High School, Montgomery initially looked around at the many family members who surrounded her who were healthcare providers. “I said, ‘I’m not going to go into nursing,’ and I went to college and left and then spent some time working in the accounting world,” she said.
But as life moved along – she got married and had three children – something tugged on her sleeve and sent her back to school, this time graduating from the Henry Ford Registered Nursing Program. She went on to receive a bachelor of science degree from Wayne State University and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University.
Why nursing, why then?
Montgomery quickly found herself drawn to cardiac unit nursing because of the adrenaline required when treating acutely ill patients. “You’re making fast decisions, very quickly.”
Her ability to make good decisions was quickly recognized and that led to opportunities to serve in management positions, which she also enjoyed.
“I knew I wanted to do more and have more influence, and take on bigger challenges,” she said of her decision to pursue management opportunities. “And the other side of that coin is the mentoring. It was an opportunity to mentor people along the way and to help others get where they wanted to be,” she said.
Becoming president and CEO presented her the opportunity to do all of that on a much grander scale.
“I think I can have an influence on the people who work for me, the patients, the community, and at the state level,” she said of her role within the McLaren healthcare system, and especially having the opportunity to do that in a community she calls home.
“I have friends here, people who influenced my career. I don’t think of this as a job or as working; it’s just a lot of fun. You couldn’t do this job if you didn’t love it. It’s a really fun job and there are great people here. I’m so grateful to be in this role now.
“McLaren clearly understands our vision and have been 110 percent behind our vision.
“The goal, all along, is to deliver the best health care locally,” she said. “We should have really good healthcare services here in town. That is important to me.”