I was raised by my mother, who was a nurse, and an elder sister, who both prioritized education. During a visit to Kentucky State University, I was inspired to pursue higher education there. I studied political science for three years with the intention of pursuing law. However, unforeseen circumstances intervened and I had to put my education on hold.

Subsequently, my career began as a manager at a retail clothing store where I began training new managers and was given a co-manager position. With time, I shifted my career focus due to the nature of my leadership roles that primarily involved human resources. In search of a new path, I interviewed with a staffing agency to fill one of their recruiting positions and was offered a one-day assignment at a wound care center. Although I was not familiar with the field, I jumped at the opportunity to assist for one day. Funny enough, I  thought the interviewer said the position would be a womb care, not a wound care role.

To my surprise, that one-day assignment transformed into a career that became my passion. I started as the office manager and worked to become the director at the wound center. During my tenure, the center opened several satellite locations and organized wound care symposia. However, I realized that I needed to complete my education to provide future employers with evidence of my knowledge. I returned to school and obtained a master’s degree in health care administration with a concentration in health care education.

After earning my degree, I took a new position as director of bariatric surgery and weight management, which introduced me to the world of process improvement and Lean Six Sigma. In pursuit of a greater opportunity, I returned to school at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business and received my master’s in business operational excellence and a certification as a green belt in Six Sigma. I then began a position in endocrinology with another health system, where I met a colleague who encouraged me to apply for C-suite positions. I applied for and was soon appointed the chief executive officer of the Rehabilitation Institute of Ohio, a joint venture between Premier Health and Encompass Health.

As CEO and a firm believer in servant leadership, I am responsible for everyone under our roof and take the opportunity to speak at every new hire orientation. I emphasize the importance of providing the best care in the best environment and in the best manner possible to patients and their families who are going through something traumatic. I believe my background in retail has instilled in me a high value for great customer service, and I work every day to improve our quality of services and increase our presence in the community. Encompass Health’s value of "better together" has always resonated with me as I strive to bring out the best in my team and patients alike. 

My journey is a testament to the power of hard work, perseverance and self-belief. I truly believe that we can achieve anything as long as we have a strong belief that comes from within.

Etene Terrell-Fakorede is the chief executive officer of Encompass Health - Rehabilitation Institute of Ohio. Please note that the views of authors do not always reflect the views of AHA.

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