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After 22 years working in Finance at UHN – and nearly three decades in healthcare – Ashley Taylor has seen it all.
From major development additions to key financial system upgrades and even playing a role in handling fires, floods and the massive 2003 blackout, the Director of Finance for Facilities Management-Planning Redevelopment and Operations (FM-PRO) and Capital Services retires on March 31, taking with her those and many other memories.
"I have met so many amazing people and I loved working in healthcare and supporting the frontline," Ashley says. "It'll be hard to leave the peeps, but it's time."
Her first job out of university was at Ontario Hydro in 1981. She worked in finance there until they downsized and she entered the healthcare industry with a role at Wellesley Hospital in 1993. Wellesley then merged with St. Michael's Hospital, so she moved to Women's College Hospital, which merged with Sunnybrook Hospital (before it became independent again in 2006), finally landing at UHN in 1998.
"I said I'd go to a hospital that ate other hospitals," Ashley says with a laugh.
For the next 22 years, she cycled through many departments and roles at UHN, from Corporate Finance working in budgets and financial reporting, to Controller at Toronto General Hospital, FM-PRO (even before it was FM-PRO) and Research.
When Ashley started at UHN, she worked out of The Residence, a 19-storey building – which was demolished in 2013 – that once housed UHN nursing students.
At the time, some of the campus buildings "were so old, there was an area where you'd bring your horses in and tie them up," she recalls.
She's been around for major improvements and changes, including the development of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, the R. Fraser Elliot Building and the MaRS Discovery District.
According to FM-PRO Vice President, Ron Swail, Ashley's "long history with UHN has been an incredible resource, not only to FM-PRO, but many staff and patients."
"Her invaluable institutional knowledge has been a tremendous support to the ongoing development of this department and, on a personal note, to me, as she supported me in my new position as VP FM-PRO," says Ron.
"We will miss Ashley's leadership and, of course, her humour and stories from UHN's past."
A career highlight for Ashley is bringing UHN's finances into the modern age, when she helped lead the roll out of accounting software SAP across all UHN sites in 2010.
"UHN was on a really ancient system," Ashley says of its original and dated software, adding that it didn't have the capability to conduct a basic search.
The new system went live in November 2011, alongside a number of other Ontario hospitals.
Although it was "a year of 14-hour days," it was a fun and rewarding project for Ashley.
Other memorable moments are the averted – and not-so-averted – disasters.
Before cell phones, UHN required senior level staff – whether they had clinical experience or not – to take turns as "Administrator (Admin) on Call." The role involved handing over a pager on evenings and weekends for after-hours emergencies. As a Director of Finance, this fell to Ashley once a month.
Her first time on call was on her birthday and a wing of the hospital flooded.
"I called the switchboard and they said, 'There's a guy standing here and he's in water up to his waist,'" she recalls.
She was also the Admin on Call during a Code Red (fire) and had to evacuate the hospital, as well as during the Northeast blackout of 2003 – a widespread power outage throughout parts of the United States and Ontario. The outage downed ventilators and generators, so she worked through the night – alongside clinical staff – and didn't get home until 10 a.m. the next morning.
"I just had every emergency," Ashley says with a laugh. "As hard as those were, you got to learn and watch other people who never panicked. It was just fascinating to watch."
Most of all, Ashley will remember the people, lasting friendships and how she watched many colleagues advance their careers.
"The memories that mean a lot to me are just seeing the people climb," she says.
She also cherishes the "good old days" when UHN hosted organization-wide talent shows, often showcasing doctors as gifted pianists, or Security staff as diehard KISS fans – even donning the makeup and leather for their performance.
Ashley's plans for retirement are to focus on physical fitness, spend time with her cats Keiko, Kallie and Charlie, volunteer at her local veterinarian and travel, once COVID-19 restrictions lift.
"I'm going to miss UHN and FM-PRO, but I think it's in good hands," says Ashley. "Despite how bad the pandemic is, I think everyone learned a lot – we all came together.
"When everybody pulls together you can move mountains at UHN."