The women in leadership at Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.
Dr. Maria Braman has had an extensive career in medicine that has led her to become the Chief Medical Officer at ARH. Her mother was a doctor and from a young age Dr. Braman was exposed to the healthcare field, cultivating a passion for serving patients.
She obtained her medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she was able to explore several different medical concentrations before pursuing pathology. She completed her pathology residency at MedStar Washington Hospital Center as well as an additional breast pathology residency at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Braman says she entered the healthcare field during a time when a work-life balance was almost unheard of. While she was most interested in the surgery field, she chose to focus on pathology, allowing her to have a family while still aiding in the process of diagnosis after surgery. Before joining the ARH team, she served as the Vice President of Medical Affairs for St Peter’s Hospital in Helena, MT. Prior to that she was chair of the pathology department and medical director at St. Peter’s Hospital and Mountain West Pathology in Helena, Montana. There she utilized her training in breast pathology to open the first nationally accredited breast program in Montana, something she is still extremely proud of.
“[Creating this breast program] was really driven by a desire to improve the delivery of breast care. It provided me the opportunity to utilize my expertise in breast pathology to improve patient care on a broad scale,” Dr. Braman says. “It was very exciting to me and it opened my eyes to a whole other part of medicine where I didn’t just do direct patient care. This is when I was first bitten by the administrative bug. I was helping people from a broader perspective by developing a whole system involving multiple members of the healthcare team to bring better care to patients.”
In addition to this work, she served as the President and CEO of Braman Labs, LLC, a women’s health molecular diagnostics laboratory. In her current role as Chief Medical Officer, the most senior medical administrative position within ARH, she represents all hospitals across the system. She focuses on integrating medicine and quality of care into management while implementing the strategic vision and goals of the organization.
“When I’m sitting behind the microscope I can only help one patient at a time,” she says. “From an administrative perspective I’m able to help literally thousands of people per day. That’s just where my passion led me, and fortunately the opportunities followed.”
In an effort to advance her already impressive career, Dr. Braman graduated from Notre Dame University in May 2018 with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). She says completing this degree has provided an additional layer of exposure and expertise complimenting her move from practicing medicine to healthcare administration. This new knowledge will allow her to continue to excel at ARH, an organization she has grown passionate about in her time there.
“I really love my job here at ARH because there are so many people every day that we are able to impact, making a difference in the care that they receive,” Dr. Braman says. “There is a lot of opportunity to grow, develop and improve [healthcare] here. I believe that ARH has the opportunity to really make a national name for itself in rural healthcare and stand out as leaders on a national stage. There’s so much richness in our network of 12 hospitals and 80 clinics, we have so many thoughts and ideas and people working together to bring high-level care to the community. I love the opportunity, energy and commitment ARH has to the community and we’re at a point where we are launching. It’s really exciting.”
Her love for ARH runs deeper than her job alone. In mid-2018 her grandmother who lives in Maryland fell ill. Dr. Braman’s family alerted her of the poor care her grandmother was receiving and she had to intervene. She immediately jumped in her car and drove to Maryland where she arranged an ambulance to transport her grandmother to ARH.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the care that she received in our hospital and the genuine love that came from everyone in the community, whether it was the nursing staff, the janitor or the dietary team dropping off food,” Dr. Braman says. “She was so comfortable and felt so safe, a stark difference to the care she was receiving in Maryland. Watching what ARH does for patients be done so beautifully and seeing my grandmother transition from this world to the next peacefully, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
In addition to her grandmother, Dr. Braman’s family is full of incredibly talented women. She says her mother has served as her biggest role model and mentor throughout her life. Her mother came to the United States from Trinidad where she was one of only three women in her medical school class. Now, at the age of 74 Dr. Braman says her mother is traveling the world, living her life to the fullest.
“She has paved her way, she has energy and she loves life at 74,” Dr. Braman says. “She’s a dynamite woman and I’m very proud to be her daughter.”
Dr. Braman and her husband, Benjamin have three beautiful children, one biological daughter, Katie, and two adopted children, Jaylissa and Kanye who are biological brother and sister. Much like herself, her three children have been exposed to the healthcare field from a young age.
Family is extremely important to Dr. Braman, and she has always strived for the work-life balance that Pathology originally promised. Her passion for her work led her to pursue projects like developing the breast program in Montana in her free time; however, she has always taken time for her family and even involved them in her work when possible.
“I realized, if you enjoy what you do, you keep your energy for it. It’s when things are a drag that they’re hard, but when you enjoy what you do and you’re passionate about it it’s not so much about balance as it is about having fun. I love being able to share that with my kids.”
Her career in the medical field has offered many lessons and a vast amount of knowledge that she is excited to share with future healthcare professionals. When asked what advice she has for a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field she had this to say:
“Do what you’re passionate about. Your passion carries you a long way. That’s the difference between being average and being great, do it with passion, don’t be afraid and take risks. Love what you do.”
ARH is lucky and humbled to have such an incredible, accomplished leader paving the way for future healthcare professionals and helping to further advance medicine in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia.