Alumni Spotlights

Two NU Grads Lead Crouse Hospital to a Top Spot in CNY Healthcare

March 10, 2015 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09

 Kimberly (Smith) Boynton, ’91, and Kelli (Riley) Harris, ’00

Kimberly (Smith) Boynton, ’91, and Kelli (Riley) Harris, ’00

Crouse Hospital is a recognized leader in providing the best in patient care, promoting community health, and creating a dynamic work environment. That’s due, in large part, to the leadership of two Niagara graduates: Kimberly (Smith) Boynton, ’91, Crouse’s president and CEO, and Kelli (Riley) Harris, ’00, the hospital’s chief financial officer.

Although separated by nearly a decade, the two women, both originally from the Syracuse, N.Y., area, followed similar paths to Crouse. Both discovered an affinity for accounting while in high school, both chose Niagara University because of its strong accounting program, and both returned to Syracuse after graduation to work at PricewaterhouseCoopers (formerly Coopers & Lybrand) in public accounting, where they specialized in healthcare.

Kimberly remained with the firm until 1998, when she joined Crouse as a financial analyst. In 2003, she was appointed chief financial officer, a position she held until Jan. 1, 2014, when she was named president and CEO, the youngest in the hospital’s history.

Kimberly’s 10-year experience as CFO incorporated oversight of hospital departments not traditionally associated with finance, including construction and engineering, environmental services, political relations, and information technology, so she was well-prepared to take on the challenges of leading the hospital as CEO when the opportunity arose. To strengthen her knowledge of the institution’s clinical operations, an area with which she was less familiar, Kimberly spent time with the physicians and clinical support staff, observing their work in operating and emergency rooms and on the patient floors.

“It’s a very small window into their world, but it’s really helped me to gain understanding of what their challenges are and credibility for me and my position,” she says. She adds that the transition in leadership from the former CEO, a longtime physician with Crouse, was a smooth one, something she is proud to have accomplished.

When a position in the accounting department at Crouse became available, Kimberly reached out to her former employer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, because she knew that the firm, which had a large number of healthcare clients, would have staff with the appropriate experience.

Kelli didn’t think she was ready to leave PWC when her manager suggested she apply for the opening at Crouse. But as she considered the opportunity and what it would offer – no travel, a regular 9-5 schedule, and the chance to get her foot in the door of an industry she hoped to eventually work in – she changed her mind.

“It was the best choice I made, to be honest,” she says.

That was 13 years ago. Since then, Kimberly and Kelli have developed a strong friendship as they’ve risen through the ranks at Crouse. They note that their Niagara experience has prepared them well for the key roles they hold – both the rigorous academic curriculum they completed as well as the value system they learned. In fact, the Niagara experience is one reason Kimberly was confident Kelli was right for the job.

“We are a culture-based institution, we feel very strongly in our mission, vision, and values, and it takes a certain person to work in an institution like that,” Kimberly says.

“The values that you learn at Niagara are very similar to the Crouse values,” Kelli agrees. “We all live by them here: respect and dignity, a sense of community, and open and honest communication.”

Today, the two women are charting a course for Crouse’s future and meeting the challenges and opportunities the changing healthcare environment presents. Kelli recently spearheaded the launching of a webpage that lists the prices for its most common medical procedures online (the first hospital in Central New York to do so), while Kimberly, who was part of the team that developed Crouse’s mission, vision, and values, is focusing on furthering them through the implementation of five strategic initiatives that will expand the hospital’s services while strengthening its sense of community and dedication to providing the best in patient care.

“The people who work at Crouse are just phenomenal,” Kimberly says. “There are miracles that take place here every day.”