By Pat Caldwell
ONTARIO – Judy Cordeniz was pretty sure she wanted to become a nurse.
There was only one problem.
She couldn’t stand the sight of blood. That’s when she decided to become a medical assistant “Because it was a two-year junior college course and I could get a job quickly,” said Cordeniz.
The career move proved sound for the Middleton resident and now, more than 30 years later, Cordeniz is just days away from calling it a career. Cordeniz, who spent most of her life in the medical field as an administrator, will step down later this month as chief executive officer of Lifeways Inc. in Ontario. Cordeniz said it was time to seek new opportunities. Lifeways is a regional behavioral health service with facilities in Hermiston, Pendleton, Milton-Freewater, Ontario and Boise.
“I will be 65 next month and I have been in health care for a good healthy time. I am in the process of getting my certification as a personal trainer because I want to do something totally different,” said Cordeniz.
Cordeniz said she believes personal fitness for the baby boomer generation will be vital. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.
“There is a silver tsunami of baby boomers that will come through the health care system and it will truly tax the system. So if I can keep one person fit, that is one less person taxing the health care system,” said Cordeniz.
Cordeniz said she fit in well with Malheur County because of her rural roots. Born and raised on a dairy farm in the San Joaquin Valley, Cordeniz’s career usually included stints at rural medical facilities.
“You have an opportunity to do a lot of things when you are at a small facility and I like variety,” said Cordeniz. Cordeniz arrived from Santa Barbara to work in Malheur County in 1997 when she became the vice president of business development at what was then Holy Rosary Medical Center.
In 2011, she stepped into the Lifeways CEO slot. Cordeniz said she is proud of her work at Lifeways.
“When I got here and realized what it was and what it was going to be then I made it part of my job to make sure everyone knew that, hey, you have this huge resource in this community,” said Cordeniz.
Cordeniz said another important part of her legacy is the growth of Lifeways.
“You have to have a strong platform for an organization to grow. When I started we had about 180 employees and we are now at about 330. We’ve grown substantially,” said Cordeniz.
During a 30-year career, Cordeniz said she has seen the field evolve.
“I love to watch the waves and trends. It is interesting to watch the circular pattern of things as they go into and out of fashion based on access and cost. I do a lot of research and study on multi-generations,” said Cordeniz.
Cordeniz said people should take more ownership inside the current health and health insurance system.
“I think people are blind, because insurance or Medicare or Medicaid covers it and there is no incentive to utilize health care efficiently,” said Cordeniz.
Health care leaders must also be flexible, she said.
“When there was a nursing shortage while I was at Holy Rosary we realized we needed to find out what are the indicators that retain nurses or recruit nurses because what used to work isn’t working anymore,” said Cordeniz.
Cordeniz said she will miss the people at Lifeways when she retires. She will not miss all of the travel her job requires.
“I spend a lot of time on the road. In a year-and-a-half I put 50,000 miles on the Lifeways car,” said Cordeniz.
Cordeniz won’t fall into total retirement after she leaves Lifeways.
Last week Treasure Valley Community College announced Cordeniz will serve as a temporary public information officer while, Abby Lee goes on leave to serve in the Idaho Legislature.
“Although I am truly looking forward to retirement I simply could not pass up the opportunity to help the college as it continues to identify its strategic needs for enrollment and programs,” said Cordeniz.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.