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2020 Navigator: Soniya Fidler guides hospital through pandemic

Soniya Fidler, president of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center
John F. Russell

Soniya Fidler took over as President of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center amid the transition from a small community hospital to part of a statewide 12-hospital network — a change not embraced by everyone.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, thrusting the hospital into a scenario they had trained for — but never experienced at such magnitude and far-reaching societal impacts.

“She has led the organization through some challenging times with an incredible amount of grace and passion, and truly been a real leader through it all.” said Dr. Laura Sehnert, Yampa Valley Medical Center chief medical officer and emergency medicine physician.

Fidler said she got tears in her eyes when she received the call about the Navigator Award. “I was taken aback and so honored,” she said. “I feel the Navigator Award is a prestigious honor in our community — with the longevity of the program, and knowing in whose footsteps I’m following — it means a lot to be perceived that much of a contributor to the community.”

Fidler first started working for Yampa Valley Medical Center in 2005 as a senior recruiter for human resources, becoming the director of human resources in 2008. She took on the role as Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Compliance Officer in 2014, before being named Chief Operating Officer in 2016.

Following the retirement of former Yampa Valley Medical Center President Frank May, she was named Interim President in October 2018, taking the permanent position in July of 2019.

“Soniya’s impact on the community has been impressive during especially challenging times,” according to the Navigator Awards Selection Committee. “She took over leadership of UCHealth/Yampa Valley Medical Center during a period rife with internal challenges and community perception problems. She has dealt with those challenges head-on, with calm, persistence and a vision for what a small-town hospital can be.”

If you go

What: 2020 Navigator Awards Drive-in Celebration
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21
Where: Meadows Parking Lot, 1165 Bangtail Way in Steamboat Springs
Tickets: $30 per person, includes a charcuterie box by Laura the Butcher and two drinks

Fidler moved to Steamboat — sight unseen — with her husband in 2000. They were determined to “move to Colorado to be ski bums for a couple years before settling down in the real world.,” she said. The primary goal was to get in as much skiing as possible. But they also found a place they could pursue their careers and become part of a town that is “more of a community and not just a ski resort.”

The couple raised their two kids in Steamboat, now ages nine and 11.

The last time Fidler discussed her career ambitions with May, not long before he retired, she told him she liked the COO role — making an impact, but not in the spotlight.

Taking the reins and that spotlight during an, at times rocky, merger, or as many viewed — takeover, “She was a known entity. She had the trust of the community,” said Kevin Unger, CEO of UCHealth’s northern Colorado region. “She’s been with Yampa Valley Medical Center for 15 years. She’s committed, dedicated and part of the community. . . She’s not someone who is there to make a name for herself. She wants what’s best for the hospital and the community. And it shows in her leadership skills.”

Fidler said she worked to be proactive in keeping employees engaged, acknowledging that “Any change is always hard.”

“She was collaborative in her approach,” Sehnert said. “She continued to be a member of the team.”

Fidler excelled through all the changes and challenges, Sehnert said.

Read more

Read about all the 2020 Navigator Award winners:
Snow Bowl Steamboat, Business of the Year
Soniya Fidler, Business Person of the Year
Irene Avitia, Young Professional of the Year

“She truly knows how to put patients first. She’s not afraid to have challenging conversations whether with providers or staff — asking “’Are we putting patients first?’”

Both Unger and Sehnert identified Fidler’s ability to effectively communicate as one of her greatest assets.

“Her communications skills are outstanding,” Unger said.

Throughout COVID-19, “She was very thorough and thoughtful in her communication,” Sehnert said. “She had to do a lot of pivoting. Right in the middle of one change, we would have to pivot in another direction. And she was able to lead the team through all the changes.” 

The information was changing by the minute, Fidler said, “And our decision making had to change by the minute.” For her, communicating to her staff and the community how and why they were making decisions was critical.

“Leading through a pandemic is not an easy thing and Soniya made it look easy,” Unger said. “And I think that’s really a testament to her leadership.”

Being connected to the resources of the much larger UCHealth system was a huge benefit, Sehnert said,  but it also required Fidler to “be a really strong advocate for what this community needs.”

According to the Navigator Awards Selection Committee, “In a time where calm, collected leadership across the country was desperately needed, Soniya was just that for our community. She and her team put into action response measures and preparations that reassured our community we have top-notch care in our little corner of the world. She reassured our community that the health of our family and friends is in amazing hands during this global pandemic and into the future.”

Fidler “did a lot of work preparing for the worst,” he said. “There was so much uncertainty and unknown. Soniya presented a sense of calm and reassurance — and that we were prepared for anything that came.”

Fidler described constantly reminding her staff to take care of themselves, and checking in on how they were coping. She made a point to remind them of their mission, and tell them how grateful she was for their hard work.

Sehnert also praised Fidler for the strong partnerships she developed throughout the community.

“It’s all about relationships,” Unger said. “She’s a true team player and an expert at bringing people to the table . . . getting the right people at the right time and place to make good things happen.”

Outside of the hospital, Fidler is a board member of the Steamboat Springs Chamber, Old Town Hot Springs, Health Partnership, and Steamboat Surgery. She is also a member of the Ski Town USA Morning Rotary and American College of Healthcare Executives.

“Not only is Soniya president of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, she’s also a wife, a mom, an outdoor enthusiast and a trusted friend to many in this community,” said Lindsey Reznicek, YVMC communications specialist. “She wears her multiple hats well, and they all contribute to her effective leadership style. Soniya has a tremendous work ethic and builds strong relationships with other organizations for the benefit of the health of our community.”

Since 2018, YVMC has seen an impressive amount of upgrades and community contributions. The hospital entered a5-year, $1.375 million commitment with Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation, to support mental and behavioral health resources in Routt County schools. The hospital also began a 10-year, $1 million partnership with Old Town Hot Springs focused on wellness for people of all ages, and a partnership with Steamboat Resort, focusing on health and wellness.

The Community Health Benefit Fund awarded $275,000 in grants to 14 nonprofits,.

Past Navigator Award winners

Business Person of the Year: 1999, Julie Green; 2000, Rod Hanna; 2001, Mike Lomas; 2002, Andy Wirth; 2003, Scott Ford; 2004, Steve Dawes; 2005, John Kerst; 2006, Chris Diamond; 2007, David Baldinger Jr.; 2008, Rex Brice; 2009, Chuck Porter; 2010, David Nagel; 2011, Grant Fenton; 2012, Karl Gills; 2013, Jim Schneider; 2014, Ed MacArthur; 2015, Bob Dapper; 2016, Scott Marr; 2017, Adonna Allen ; 2018, Mark Walker; 2019, Cole Hewitt

Young Professional of the Year: 2009, Stacy Huffman; 2010, Ryan Marsden; 2011, Sara Ferris; 2012, Stephany Traylor; 2013, Chris Tamucci; 2014, Sarah Fox; 2015, Glen Traylor; 2016, Nick Sharp; 2017, Tara Weaver; 2018, Jason Peasley; 2019, Kerry Shea

Business of the Year: 1999, TIC; 2000, Native Excavating; 2001, Ore House at the Pine Grove; 2002, SmartWool; 2003, Ski Haus; 2004, PostNet; 2005, F.M. Light & Sons; 2006, Off the Beaten Path bookstore; 2007, Prudential Steamboat Realty; 2008, Christy Sports; 2009, BAP!; 2010, Yampa Valley Bank; 2011, Alpine Bank; 2012, Colorado Mountain College; 2013, Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare; 2014, Yampa Valley Medical Center; 2015, Rex’s Family of Restaurants; 2016, Chief Theater; 2017, Steamboat Springs Arts Council; 2018, Freshies; 2019, Mountain Tap Brewery

Service Excellence Professional of the Year: 2017, Barbara Robinson; 2018, Jason and Kelly Landers; 2019, Michael Guerrero

Under Fidler’s short tenure, the hospital added Endocrinology, Neurology, and Rheumatology Clinics, telestroke technology, automated breast ultrasound, mobile PET/CTs, and a midwifery program. 

The renovation of the Emergency Department is underway, and the Steamboat Surgery Center recently opened — the result of a partnership between UCHealth and Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute.

“There have been a lot of successes even during our most challenging year ever,” Fidler said.

Fidler has tremendous pride in the hospital, and sees that pride among her staff.

Going through the pandemic (acknowledging it is far from over) solidified the advantages of the UCHealth affiliation and showed the benefits far outweighed the downsides, she said.

Fidler is most proud of “What our care team does. I see all the different positions here — and how it takes every single one of them to make it work and provide the level of care we have, the level of commitment and dedication and focus on what we do — and how that impacts every individual we take care of.”

From patients, Fidler said she is very proud of feedback not only citing the high level of care, but the personalized care, and “making sure we are achieving our mission and focusing on the patients.”

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.


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