New Phoebe CEO adapting well to hospital, community

Jan. 28—ALBANY — Given the arc of her career trajectory, Deborah Angerami probably could have had her pick of jobs and locations had she taken the time to extensively explore her opportunities.

But Angerami is where she wants to be, thank you, and she's been able to hit the ground running since taking over as Chief Executive Officer at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on Oct. 3.

"I realized pretty quickly that Albany-Dougherty County is one of those special places," Angerami said. "There are so many opportunities here, so many opportunities to help people. I already love it here. I'd much rather be in a community like this than some more affluent community.

"I'm not someone who has mapped out a long-term career plan where I use jobs as a stepping stone. I'm confident I could have started interviews and gotten on the CEO track sooner. But I was looking for a place where I could have an impact and put down some roots."

Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Scott Steiner agreed that Angerami was ready to be a top executive officer, despite her lack of experience in that particular phase of hospital administration. He said she'd proven herself with successes in a number of successful hospital operations.

"Deb has a tremendous amount of experience in health care and health care operations," Steiner said. "She hasn't been a CEO yet, but we knew from talking with her that she was ready for that step. And she's been quick to establish positive relationships in the community, with our administrative team and our staff at the hospital.

"This is a very exciting time to be a part of the Phoebe Family. We've got building projects going on, and we're on the verge of some tremendous operational opportunities. We must seize these opportunities, and Deb has the kind of dynamic personality that will allow us to meet these goals. I know she will help Phoebe's flagship hospital grow services and enhance patients' experiences as we build on the 111-year history of Phoebe's service to our community."

Born and raised near that other Albany — the one in New York — Angerami moved to Florida after graduating SUNY and began her health care career. After earning a couple of graduate degrees from the University of Florida, she went to work for Health First, an integrated health care delivery network in central Florida that currently includes four hospitals, a large physician group and more than 9,000 employees.

Over a 22-year career at Health First, Angerami worked her way up through a range of leadership roles, most recently serving as senior vice president and chief operating officer of the system's hospital division.

She said leaving her native New York for the South was not a tough decision.

"I had no qualms about leaving; in fact, I tell people I left skid marks on the driveway getting away," Angerami said. "I mean, come on, I was living in West Palm Beach. I left New York on March 17, and they were snowblowing the driveway when I left."

The new Phoebe CEO said she learned quickly about the dedication of Phoebe staff when she came in on a Saturday night before she officially took over for the retired Joe Austin as the hospital's CEO.

"I went to the ER and did rounds with the night and weekend folks on Oct. 1," she said. "I was blown away: A lot of the folks I talked with had been with the hospital for 20, 30 years. The staff was phenomenal, especially given what they had been through with the pandemic."

Angerami said she's already begun assessing the needs of the hospital and how to address them.

"The construction projects are incredibly exciting, but we also have concerns," she said. "Like every other hospital in the nation, we have staffing challenges. But unlike most places, Phoebe is ahead of the curve. The staff is exceptional, and I believe Scott (Steiner) as a manager is a visionary. That's one of the primary reasons I decided to come to Phoebe.

"The way I look at Scott's and Phoebe's approach is like that thing that Wayne Gretzky always said: 'Don't go where the puck is, go where it's going to be.' That's how this hospital, as ground zero — one of the world's initial host spots for COVID — was able to perform so incredibly during the pandemic and after."

As for Albany, Angerami said she's settled in easily, finding a lot to like in a small amount of time.

"Albany has a lot to give," she said. "I enjoy the restaurants here — The Bread House, the Catch, a lot of others — and I like the day-to-day intimacy of a small town like Albany that has easy access to so many other higher-profile locations: three hours to Atlanta, about the same time to the Florida beaches. And, hey, I got to see Ms. Rutha Harris — one of the original Freedom Singers — knock it out of the park at Albany State's Martin Luther King Day dinner.

"Trust me whsn I say, I'm really happy to be here. I'm where I'm supposed to be."