After nearly four decades at CHI Memorial, Diona Brown has developed a reputation for problem solving and leadership. The team at Memorial's Stroke and Neuroscience Center even uses an acronym for Brown's prowess -- HOWDI -- or "How Would Diona Do It?"
"Diona is absolutely the best administrator I have ever worked with in my 20 years in hospital systems," says Jennifer Patterson, the director of Memorial's director of neuroscience operations. "She has a way to help people foster the best version of themselves."
A Chattanooga native, Brown first started working at Memorial Hospital in 1984 as a phlebotomist while she was in nursing school at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After graduation, she worked in the hospital's intensive care unit for cardiac surgery patients before becoming the director of the cardiac cath lab. Twelve years later, Brown assumed the role of cardiac service line administrator and later served six years as vice president of patient care services and the chief nurse executive before being named the vice president of cardiovascular services.
"People love working for Diona," says Dr. William Warren, the managing partner for The Chattanooga Heart Institute which became a part of CHI Memorial with Brown's assistance. "She inspires confidence and has always championed patient care and quality."
In 2020, she was tapped to direct the neuro service line when CHI Memorial opened its Stroke and Neuroscience Center. Under Brown's leadership, the center has grown and improved patient outcomes. In 2021, Brown was named co-senior vice president of operations. She is currently the interim chief operating officer for the entire hospital.
"When I think of Diona, the first thing I think of is high quality," says Deb Moore, a retired Memorial executive who shared the chief operating duties with Brown in the past and who herself was recognized as a Champion of Health Care for administrative excellence in 2022.
Brown says she was drawn to nursing and health care as a child watching a distant relative adorn the traditional white nurse and cap of that era and going to work each day helping people in need.
"I just always wanted to be a nurse," she says. "What kept me here and motivated me through the years has primarily been the growth opportunities that I have had."
Brown earned a master's degree in health science administration and management from the University of St. Francis and completed the Wharton Nursing Leaders Fellowship Program through the University of Pennsylvania. She has been a volunteer for the American Heart Association for many years, serving as a board member and chair of Chattanooga's Go Red For Women campaign.
In helping to lead the 3,500 employees at CHI Memorial, Brown said she strives to be a servant leader who stays in contact with workers and helps empower them for success with open, honest communication. She has also worked with other hospitals owned by CHI Memorial's parent company, CommonSpirit Health, to help improve patient outcomes in cardiovascular care.
"Cardiology, from when I started here in the 1980s to where it is today, has just exploded in technology and what we can do for patients and I've been fortunate to be able to grow with it."
What do you do for relaxation/to beat stress?
I love to world travel. I jokingly tell people I work to travel.
If you could choose another profession, what would it be and why?
When I retire, my goal is that I want to be a travel agent. To me, a lot of the fun of travel is planning each trip.