Susan Grove
Susan Grove started at Toronto General Hospital in 1983 and eventually led a UHN portfolio that included Nutrition and Catering, Parking and the Shuttle Bus, retail and commercial leases, and Security Management. (Photo: UHN)

Susan Grove has never backed down from a challenge.

Over the course of a 37-year career at UHN, Susan has proven to be as capable of transformation and innovation as the organization she has served so passionately.

Susan's career began as a clinical dietitian at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) in 1983. She will end it on Nov. 30 as UHN's Senior Director, Nutrition and Business Operations, a post she has held since 2005.

Over this time, her innate ability to lead saw her move into a variety of managerial positions that spanned the formation of UHN in the late 1990s and eventually expand to include Nutrition and Catering, Parking and the Shuttle Bus, retail and commercial leases, and Security Management.

And, through it all, as from her earliest days in patient care, Susan has tried to lead by example.

"I have to be the one to demonstrate regularly and consistently," Susan says. "I can't expect my staff to do something that I'm not prepared to do."

'A leader who is often called upon to solve very challenging problems'

One example of that leadership style came in 2004. Susan was tasked with increasing efficiency on the Nutrition Department's meal tray assembly beltlines across UHN. Rather than simply issue a directive, she rolled up her sleeves and went to work on the beltline for the first time in 20 years to see if what was being asked of her staff was doable. In the end, budgetary savings of nearly half a million dollars were found.

"Susan is a leader who is often called upon to solve very challenging problems or situations and you know she will quietly and professionally resolve the issue to a very high level of quality," says Ron Swail, Vice President of Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment and Operations (FM-PRO).

"She always puts the interests of patients and TeamUHN first.

"During my short tenure at UHN, Susan has been a tremendous support to me personally and to the development of the FM-PRO Department. Her knowledge, calm demeanor and sound judgement will be sorely missed!"

Just as Susan has tried to lead by example and with compassion for her colleagues, she always tried to do the same for her patients as a clinician.

As a clinical dietitian, Susan once had a patient who was going home alone and worried about not being able to get the special food needed for her rehabilitation. To ease the patient's anxiety, Susan went to the pharmacy and picked up what the patient needed.

"I enjoyed working directly with patients," Susan says. "But I wanted to make a change to the management side and I felt that maybe I could have more influence there because we also trained dietetic interns and I saw that as an opportunity to help train them and shape future leadership."

Susan in lab coat
Susan speaks at the UHN Dietetic Interns Graduation in the early 2000s. (Photo: Courtesy Susan Grove)

Dr. Janet Madill, who is the Associate Professor, Clinical Coordinator and Research Chair of Nutrition and Transplantation at Brescia University College in London, Ont., started out with Susan as a clinical dietitian at TGH, and says Susan has always shown "the characteristics of an outstanding leader."

"She worked closely with a number of the physicians to make sure all the patients she was caring for had the best nutrition care plan," Dr. Madill says. "She was always influencing others to see what the best nutrition intervention to give the patient is.

"She has always valued ethics and integrity and carried openness, honesty and transparency throughout her entire career."

"Susan is not replaceable; she has accomplished more in a variety of different positions than anyone else could have."

One of Susan's first forays into leadership underscores her willingness to take on a challenge.

In 1994, Susan was tasked with the computerization of the entire Nutrition Department's data at a time when few people even knew how they operated. Despite admittedly thinking, "what do I know about computers?" she plunged headlong into the challenge and succeeded. 

"I had to get one application up and I had three months to do it in and it was just me and one other person," Susan recalls. "I worked three months, seven days a week, sometimes leaving at midnight or 1 a.m. and coming back at 6 a.m.

"So, it was demanding but I really liked that. It was something totally new and different. It was in the DOS (disc operating system) days, which made things even more challenging."

Always has safety and the best interests of UHN in mind

It speaks volumes for Susan's fighting spirit that pioneering the computerization of the department, which was one of her most daunting tasks, would also be among her fondest professional memories.

As Susan's portfolio grew, so too did the challenges she managed. Susan recalls with a smile how then-UHN President & CEO Dr. Bob Bell would introduce her to certain individuals as "the lady with the complaints department," because she was in charge of such areas as food service, retail, parking, and the Shuttle Bus, all things that can get people grumbling.

Despite the multitude of demands and expectations, whether they be related to the cost of parking or the route and schedule of the Shuttle Bus, Susan always executed her responsibilities with the safety and best interest of UHN in mind.

As she closes her chapter at UHN, Susan is eager, when the pandemic is over and there is an opportunity to travel again, to explore the world. Her husband is a scuba diver, and she loves snorkeling, so adventures such as swimming with manta rays will hopefully be on her agenda soon.

"In the meantime, I'm looking forward to spending more time with family and friends," she says.

"I've been lucky. I've always really liked my job."

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