The continuing desire to improve health care for all populations, especially those at high risk, drew Tanya Stringer to Las Vegas and UNLV.
Now the chief operating officer of UNLV Medicine, the clinical arm of the UNLV School of Medicine, she brought with her years of experience in other major cities, including Houston and Chicago.
Stringer, who moved to Las Vegas nearly 18 months ago after four years as an executive with Houston’s Harris Health System, is responsible for the execution of UNLV Medicine’s strategic plan, governance oversight, business development, operational efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and delivering a high-quality patient experience.
The challenges she faces are not for the faint of heart.
“With a new organization, there is a lot to be done,” she said. “We have new systems, new staff, new processes that need to be standardized across several departments. There are multiple resource needs coupled with the demands of mounting regulatory requirements and lower reimbursement. It can seem almost insurmountable. The biggest challenge is being able to achieve a highly functioning and cost-effective system that delivers high-quality patient care while being resource-constrained and financially lean.”
Stringer, who before she remarried was raising three children on her own, said she is sensitive to the challenges faced by single mothers. That’s one reason she became a board member of Young Mothers Don’t Quit, a nonprofit organization with a mission of keeping young women moving forward in their professional lives as they raise their children.
Although the demands of her new job have made it difficult for her to be as involved in Las Vegas as she would like, she hopes to be able to participate more in the future. “I realize that today I’m providing representation of what minority women can do and the value they can bring to an organization...I’m setting forth a path for someone else to follow.”
Forging a career
Stringer’s own career path wasn’t exactly a straight one.
Thinking she wanted to become a physician, she majored in biology as an undergraduate at DePaul University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. But during an internship with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where she had the opportunity to shadow physicians, she realized that dealing with disease and injury on a daily basis wasn’t for her. Her mentor, Dr. Regnal Jones, suggested a career as a health care administrator, could be the answer.
“He said I could still fulfill my passion for helping others by being the support in a health care system that makes it possible to see patients. He really sold me when he said what I do would not just affect one patient but hundreds of thousands of patients. “
She then went to the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Iowa, where she received her master of science degree in health care administration in 1997. Since then, she has worked for several organizations.
Stringer said she always remembers the motto of the Catholic elementary school she attended on Chicago’s South Side 35 years ago: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” That mantra, generally attributed to Saint Jerome, were something her mother repeatedly stressed to Stringer and her two sisters.
“My mother taught us at a very young age the value of independence, discipline, excellence, fortitude, perseverance, dedication, and confidence,” Stringer said. “She didn’t accept excuses, and we were raised under our elementary school motto. She taught us devotion to God first, family second, and our careers or talents third.”
She said she wants to keep the American Dream alive for everyone.
“I think the American Dream is available, but there isn’t an equal platform. The opportunities for a child who can receive a quality education, be provided exposure to programs like STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and interact with different cultures is going to be vastly different from the child who can’t make it to school without dodging gang-related activities or has food insecurities. Those social determinants are real and that has to be addressed for everyone.”
For now, though, she wants to do all she can to turn UNLV Medicine into a health care system that transforms medical care in Southern Nevada.
“I come from Chicago and Houston, where integrated health care systems are well-established. I came here because of the opportunity to improve health care outcomes, to help make sure Las Vegas has healthy children and healthier population. I’m proud to be part of such a great mission.”