ARH Women in Leadership Series: Sonya Bergman

The women in leadership for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare system 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.

Sonya Bergman has over 30 years of human resources experience. Currently serving as the System Director of Human Resources, Sonya has worked in the ARH HR department for 20 years. She always knew she wanted to impact others through her career. She considered nursing, but ultimately felt she was more business minded than clinically minded. Working in healthcare HR provided the best of both worlds, allowing her to make an impact through the administrative side of a hospital.

“Working in HR for the healthcare field is different than working say in a vehicle manufacturing plant,” Sonya says. “In HR we work with a lot of different people, and I think that’s what has always made it interesting to me. I’m not just coming in and giving someone a job, I’m making their career dreams come true. I’ve always been drawn to helping people and I think healthcare workers are different. It takes a special kind of person.”

Like many other ARH employees, Sonya has a personal connection to the organization. Her friends and family have received care through ARH and she takes pride in the trust and love she has for her co-workers.

“I’ve been here 20 years and I feel like it’s been a major milestone for my career,” Sonya says. “My theory is this: If I can lay my head down at night knowing I’ve done the best I can do then I feel like I’ve contributed somehow, some way.”

It’s no secret that ARH employees love their jobs and co-workers. Sonya recalled an instance a few years ago when ARH expertly maneuvered a computer system failure, beaming with pride for ARH and the incredible people she works with.

“Our HR departments across the whole system and several other departments came together and manually entered payroll for 5,000 people,” Sonya says. “Everyone was working together whether it was going to Lexington or working 18 hours a day, you could see the commitment in their faces. That’s what ARH is, we’re family and we care about each other.”

The stakes were high, but the experience created an even more tightknit ARH community.

Sonya’s biggest life mentors are her parents. As an only child, they formed a strong bond teaching her the importance of hard work not just in her job, but in her relationships, as well. Their family motto was to love life and remember that God is in control of all situations. She has passed on this advice to her daughter, Ashley, who is currently enrolled at the University of Kentucky where she is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering.

“That’s gratifying to me because she’s been exposed to the healthcare field and I think she knows that it’s a rewarding field to work in,” Sonya says. “I tell her, whether you’re a doctor, a nurse or an HR director, you have to do what inspires you. We just tell her to be compassionate, make time for God, family, your friends and be yourself. We make this joke saying, ‘put your work clothes on, dig in and go get it’ meaning show up prepared and always do your best.”

In her free time Sonya loves spending time with family and friends. Her family is famous for the Christmas party they host each year complete with a video invitation, over the top costumes, and great food. Aside from this annual event, Sonya runs every day, attends church regularly, and enjoys weekends at the lake.

“My mother always said, ‘Everything you do makes some kind of statement.’ Whether that be how you dress or how you answer the phone, but everything you do makes a statement,” Sonya says. “You still have to find a balance. I believe you show up for everything you do, [not just physically, but mentally] but you also have to find that balance and leave work at work.”

Sonya is a true example of the passion and dedication each and every ARH employee puts into their job. When asked what advice she had to offer to a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field, she had this to say:

“Go for it. I think you need to be confident and wear your passion right on your face. Be energetic, healthcare is a tough field to work in and no matter what role we play, we’ve got to show our confidence and passion. It’s important for young women to always ask for what they want. The worst answer they can get is no. Be bold and go for it! I love what I do. Truly, I’ll tell anybody that. You have to find something in your career that you are passionate about and that you love. If you don’t, then you need to find a new path because it’s not fair to you or the people you work for.”