Sarah Fontenot named to AHA national board

Peterson Health Board Member Sara Fontenot overlooks the "Elevating Health" banner in the medical center's main lobby, one of the efforts she helped craft, as she readies herself for a three-year term as a member of the American Hospital Association Committee on Governance.

Sarah Fontenot is in the eighth year of her nine-year term on the Peterson Health Board of Directors, and is serving as vice-chair and as a member of the Executive Committee.

She says "Serving on the Peterson board is the most exciting and interesting thing. It has 11 members, from diverse backgrounds and with different skills. We don't run the hospital, we provide the overall governance. We support our CEO, and help Cory Edmondson and his team keep Peterson the excellent health organization it is."

Fontenot says one of the highlights of her term was serving on the search committee to fill Pat Murray's position when he retired after three decades as CEO.

"We had an incredible number of applicants, from truly worthy candidates. We read all of them, and called many of them, and winnowed down to those we interviewed. Cory stood out, and now we're four months in, and he has not disappointed us."

She says that health care is a field that serves best when an organization measures and rewards quality, addresses errors, and keeps up with the advance of technology. "We did a rebranding for Peterson, and now our focus is 'Elevating Health.' We aren't just 'Peterson Hospital,' where you go when your sick, any more. We now have 13 buildings, including programs in Bandera and Comfort. We've built six new buildings just while I've been on the board."

Peterson Health is part of the Texas Hospital Association, she says. It serves as the voice of Texas hospitals, striving for excellence in health care for all Texans. It was THA's Texas Hospital Trustees that nominated Fontenot for a position on the American Hospital Association Committee on Governance. The AHA is the most-recognized industry leader for U.S. hospitals. She says she will serve a three-year term, consisting of three two-day meetings per year, one of two Texans on the board.

Fontenot says she was born a Yankee, in Boston, but her family moved to Farmington, Conn. She graduated from Farmington High School in 1974, then attended University of Vermont. She graduated with her bachelor of science in nursing in 1978. Then she moved back to Boston to practice nursing.

"I traveled down from Boston to visit my family in Farmington, and swore I would never live as far south as Connecticut," she says. "Two weeks later a friend, Martha, set me up on a blind date with Michael Fontenot, from Houston."

She says Michael was completing his masters at Yale, in guitar. Then, two weeks after they married in 1981, he started medical school in Dallas, at the Northwestern campus. After graduation, they moved back to Connecticut for his residency.

While Fontenot was in Connecticut, from 1990 to 1994, she says she attended the University of Connecticut. "I started first year of law school with a two-year-old, and pregnant." Nevertheless, she graduated with her Juris Doctor, and, "Starting July 3, 1994, we drove from New Haven to Fredericksburg, in two cars, with two boys and a very homesick dog."

She says Michael went to work as a pediatrician in Fredericksburg, then decided to start a practice at Kerrville Pediatrics, where he has been for 23 years. The two boys they brought south were Gordon, who is now a software designer; and Andrew, who works in the management of the IT Development Office at MSB Austin, when he's not playing the saxophone.

Adding to the clan, Fontenot says her 95 year-old mother, Ruth Freymann, recently moved down from Providence, R.I., and lives near them.

She says when she and Michael vacation, they love to travel. "We're planning our ninth trip to France. Michel speaks French, and we love to see beyond the usual places. We also travel domestically."

When she is working, Fontenot says she teaches. "After eight years nursing, plus law school, I'm in my 22nd year as an adjunct professor of Health Law at Trinity University, teaching future hospital administrators. I'm also a Certified Speaking Professional through the National Speakers Association. As an independent contractor, I travel around teaching health law seminars for doctors and hospital administrators, and author my twice-monthly 'Fontenotes' newsletter at sarahfontenot.com."

She says to give back to her community she's also a member of the Fredericksburg Theater Company board, and a volunteer reader for seventh-graders at Fredericksburg Middle School.

She takes her motto from Popeye, saying, "I y'am what I y'am."

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