Recent appointee says she learns something every day
Suzanne Quillen: agent for change.
At least that’s how Quillen, a University of New Mexico regent, was described by her boss of several years, Tony Hernandez. Hernandez is the senior vice president for operations at Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico, where Quillen is the CEO.
Based in Las Cruces, Quillen, 58, is one of three UNM regents appointed by the governor this year.
“I think Suzanne is probably one of the most high-energy, change agent-dedicated people I know. I think she’s committed to ongoing leadership development with the people she works with,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez described Quillen as somebody who’s not afraid of change and taking action.
“I guess what I’m saying is, lots of times people want to keep things the same because that’s the way it’s always been, and she’s into looking at other ways of doing things,” Hernandez said.
Quillen says it’s her experience in the rapidly changing health care industry that will help her in her tenure as regent. Regents are appointed by the governor to six-year terms, but they can serve multiple terms.
“It’s invaluable just in the fast pace in which we move and have to make decisions, and difficult decisions,” Quillen said. “I think that’s an important asset to bring to the table.”
Quillen, an Oklahoma native, said it’s also her background in education that helps her be a good regent.
Quillen said she felt lost her senior year of high school when the principal suggested she join a vocational career high school where she could focus on becoming a nurse.
That led her to nursing school, and after eventually moving to New Mexico, Quillen got her degree at the now defunct University of Albuquerque. She also has degrees from the University of Phoenix and New Mexico State University.
Her experience led her to delve into New Mexico’s education system. She is a board member of the Bridge of Southern New Mexico, a public-private nonprofit composed of business, government and community leaders that strives to improve education. Quillen worked with Gov. Susana Martinez to help found Arrowhead Park Early College High School, the state’s first of its kind. The school opened in fall 2010.
“It was quite an honor to be considered (for the regent position) by the governor and we share a passion for students’ graduation rates and helping to ensure that students are employable when they graduate even from high school, and then (when) they graduate from college in a timely manner,” Quillen said.
Quillen, who chairs the UNM Health Sciences board and is on the regents committee for student and academic affairs, says being regent has kept her busy but satisfied. She usually has to spend at least a day in Albuquerque because the drive back in forth is so long.
“It’s been a great learning curve, and it’s going to continue being a learning curve for the entirety of my six-year term. I really do learn something every single day, and it’s been the same with the regents,” she said.
When Quillen is not working on health care or education issues, she enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her family.
Quillen, whose husband is an orthopedic surgeon, has two stepsons and two daughters, one of whom the family adopted from an orphanage in Russia when the girl was a teenager. She also has four grandchildren.