Hospital Leader Takes Pride in Turning Challenges Into Successes

March 1, 2020

As McLean’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, Michele L. Gougeon, MSS, MSc, was centrally involved in leading new initiatives over several decades while taking on key leadership roles in state and national organizations that have given her a widespread policy impact on behavioral health care services.

Initially hired as the hospital’s first chief information officer, Gougeon brought a unique experience as an executive in health care policy and hospital information systems who also had trained as a clinical social worker. One of Gougeon’s first accomplishments upon arriving at McLean was convincing hospital leadership to modernize its medical record system by moving to one unique medical record number per patient. She then introduced IDX for financial and some clinical systems. She eventually moved the hospital computing to Meditech and finally, to Epic.

Michele L. Gougeon, MSS, MSc
Michele L. Gougeon, MSS, MSc, is McLean’s executive vice president and chief operating officer

“I’ve always liked the challenge of looking at workflows, looking at people’s talents, and putting that puzzle together to create a more efficient and effective system,” said Gougeon, whose current role of executive vice president and chief operating officer affords her many opportunities to get involved with departments throughout the hospital. “I enjoy working with people to make improvements in operations and in the way we function as an organization.”

Gougeon has encountered many challenges in her three decades at McLean and credits her training in social work with her ability to successfully navigate them—including the lean years the hospital faced, when there were deep concerns about it surviving. Beginning In 1990s, the hospital’s financial struggles became dire primarily because payer reimbursement rates had been reduced dramatically, and lengths of stays had changed.

“It was a tough period because we were all focused on saving McLean,” said Gougeon. “We had to make some painful decisions, including reducing some programs, outsourcing support services, and making many moves to consolidate space.” The financial crisis for the hospital was unprecedented, and the way patient care was delivered was changing rapidly.

“We realized that our land was our biggest asset, and as part of our strategy, we would need to leverage our property,” said Gougeon, who became one of the most recognized faces in the town of Belmont as she shepherded what would become known as the McLean Land Plan through a 10-year negotiation with state officials, Belmont town officials, town committees, and residents.

“It was a lengthy process, but it served to stabilize the hospital,” said Gougeon. “We are still working to realize the full potential of the land plan from zone 3, the senior living subdistrict, and zone 4, the research and development subdistrict, which will be used for the location of the McLean child and adolescent academic and residential campus.“

Complementing her work at the hospital, Gougeon has served as board member and chairman of the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems and board member and chairman of the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, where she has successfully advocated for policy changes that have had a positive impact on McLean and on the overall delivery of behavioral health services. She has also served for 25 years as a board member and as board chair of the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts.

As Gougeon looks forward to overseeing major capital projects on the Belmont campus, including the development of the McLean child and adolescent academic and residential campus, she sees people as being the main drivers of McLean’s bright future.

“Our staff are our most valuable resource, and I am proud to be a member of the McLean community.”

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