Why you need to know her: Pamela Stoyanoff is the first female president of a health system in North Texas. She oversees Methodist Health System’s four hospitals, 1,200 physicians, and 7,600 employees.
Raised in the Midwest, Stoyanoff is a classically trained flautist who had early dreams of playing for the Chicago Symphony, but Stoyanoff’s career took a turn in college. She realized she liked nice things a bit too much to be a struggling artist, so she studied accounting. She minored in music, and still plays the flute on occasion today, but took the CPA exam after college and jumped into accounting with Arthur Anderson.
But the big firm took its toll, and Stoyanoff grew tired of the long hours, so she looked for an opportunity to go in house. When a role as a controller for an Illinois hospital opened up, she went for it. She found that she enjoyed the healthcare industry, and though it may have not been her original career aspiration, she soon knew she had found her path. She worked for several years in Illinois before heading south on a journey that would eventually take her to Methodist.
“Finance is black and white, yes or no, right or wrong. … Operations is like herding cats and dogs. It’s just so different.”
Former Methodist CEO Stephen Mansfield recruited Stoyanoff to be the CFO of an Arkansas hospital, but she wasn’t so sure she wanted to live in Little Rock. “If I had to rank the states, Arkansas would have been dead last,” she says. Stoyanoff rejected the offer—twice. But she was unable to sleep and decided it was because she needed to take the job. After relocating to Arkansas with her 4-year-old twin girls and husband, she fell in love with her new home.
But when Mansfield took the helm at Methodist seven years later, he successfully recruited Stoyanoff a bit farther south. He wanted her to leave the CFO world of figures and spread-sheets and take on a newly created chief operations officer role. It would be a new challenge for Stoyanoff. “Finance is black and white, yes or no, right or wrong. You close the books and start over,” she says. “Operations is like herding cats and dogs. It’s just so different.”
She never saw herself moving out of the finance world, but she was always well-suited to think about operations and the big picture. She is not your typical financial introvert and is able to make quick judgments and tough decisions. This serves her well in the role of president, which she assumed earlier this year when Mansfield retired.
Stoyanoff has never had a problem speaking her mind, which didn’t always make her the most popular leader. “Dallas is an old-time, male-dominated city,” she says. “Being a woman here isn’t easy, regardless of your position.”
Her accounting background coupled with her personality results in a leadership style that isn’t always well received in a city that has antiquated expectations about how women should act. “Coming from the finance side and from the north, I am sometimes too direct, but that is not politically astute,” she says. “What I have learned and am still learning is that political savvy you need to have.”
Although making tough choices and being direct is often seen as a strength in men, Stoyanoff is sometimes seen as cold. But she is learning a deft touch without sacrificing who she is. “There are a lot of people who say, ‘She is super smart and direct,’ but the other side of that is ‘She is scary; she can be intimating.’”
And sometimes the sexist feedback takes its toll. “Men who are tough and hard don’t get the same reaction,” she says. “They are strong, good, and competent. Women who do that are not. I have never gotten over it. It bothers me to this day. But I am getting better at saying, ‘I am who I am,’ and that’s just it.”
Part of what makes it all worth it is Methodist’s mission to aid the underserved. Stoyanoff leads the only health system in Dallas based south of the Trinity River and caring for the southern Dallas community is built into the DNA of the organization.
Although the system has at times struggled through the years, its Mansfield and Richardson hospitals are highly profitable and help fund the care that is provided at the Methodist Dallas and Charlton locations, which do more charitable work as a percentage of net revenue than other private hospitals in the market. “We have to do something better than everyone else in order to sustain that mission in the southern sector,” Stoyanoff says.
Although she entered the healthcare market as a career decision, she has adopted Methodist’s mission to provide care to the oft-neglected communities in its midst. “It is the basis of how we started and what we do—trying to impact health disparity, food, transportation, and more,” she says. “I didn’t have a calling in the beginning. But I do have a calling now.”