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Leadership Columbus: Julie Abedian

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Name: Julie Abedian

Place of birth: Flint, Mich.

Date of birth: May 17, 1960

Title: President of Columbus Regional Hospital Foundation.

Duties: Include visits to potential donors to explain the role of the hospital, which is not just to take care of patients but to create a healthy community. I try to encourage our community to help create a healthier community through donations to the foundation.

Education: Bachelor’s degrees in economics and natural resources from the University of Michigan.

Family: Husband, Stephen Abedian, an immigrant from Iran and engineer at Cummins; sons Alex and Andre; two more boys, Vanand and Vache, nephews of my husband, lived with us while going to school and are now in college.

Hobbies: Traveling, supporting my sons in their school and athletic activities. Alex plays soccer at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a senior, and Andre is a midfielder on the North team. Vanand plays football at Manchester College. Vache is a doctoral student at UC-Davis. My husband coaches Columbus Express soccer.

Community involvement: President-elect of the Columbus Rotary Club, involved with the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. business advisory board, Healthy Communities, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Q: What was your first job?

A: I was a lifeguard and swim instructor at age 15.

Q: What were some of the main lessons you learned from that job?

A: There are boring parts and really exciting parts to almost any job, and that in a job you can make a difference in somebody’s life. I had to save two kids who were near drowning. I learned that work can really be meaningful.

Q: What was your first leadership role?

A: At age 22 I was a swim coach, and I was horrible. I did not know how to communicate with the kids, who were in seventh to ninth grade. I only did it one summer. I learned a big leadership lesson from that experience: You have to try to understand what motivates each individual. You can’t assume that what motivates you is the same that motivates others.

Q: What are the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned?

A: There’s a right time to listen, learn and try to understand other people’s points of view, but there also comes a time to act, and the really good leaders know the right time. Really good leaders not only have great ideas and teams, but they also see when it’s the right time to move forward in a significant way. You can have a great idea and team, but if you pick the wrong time to move, you can run into big obstacles.

Q: What do you like about your job?

A: I love the hospital and the organizations we get to support. I just really feel this is meaningful work. And it requires me to use all the skills and experiences that I’ve had. Running a foundation is complicated. I’m glad I have an economic background, and I was always good at marketing, which helps with fundraising. Our hospital is a role-model community hospital that really aspires to be the best in the nation. I love being associated with an organization that has very high aspirations. I also view the hospital as the soul of the community. People are born here on this campus, they are treated here throughout their lives, and they die here as well. It’s a source of tremendous healing throughout people’s lives. And the place is filled with a lot of really smart people who are also very caring individuals, which makes it a privilege to work here. I know that whatever turn my career takes, I will remain in health care.

Q: How do you deal with all the change in the health care industry?

A: I’m excited about all the change. The foundation’s priority is helping fund innovation. We’re on the leading edge of changes in the industry to lower costs and improve patient outcomes. Through a local project, we’re trying to help people control their diabetes symptoms through health coaches, rather than waiting until they arrive at the emergency room. That requires an initial investment in coaches but will save money in the long run because of fewer emergency room visits. It’s our role to show those who pay for health services, namely private insurers and self-insured organizations, that we can achieve a better outcome at a lower overall cost so that they agree to pay for services such as health coaches. We think of that as venture philanthropy.

Q: What advice do you have for people who are just now entering the workforce?

A: To succeed, do more than is asked of you. To be happy, look for meaning in every job you have.

Q: What’s your favorite city to visit and why?

A: Chicago. I used to live there, and it’s that great combination of big city at a human scale. Also, I’m from Michigan and have an affinity for the Great Lakes. But Columbus is my favorite city in the world.

Leadership Columbus is a twice monthly Q&A with Columbus’ leaders. If you know someone we should talk to, contact Boris Ladwig at 379-5712 or

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