When tears come to her eyes while discussing transplant patients, you can tell her work at Children’s Hospital is more than just a job to Michelle Lucero. A quick glimpse of her Facebook page gives insight into her perspective. One profile shows the motto: Like a Flower. She Was Fragile. Like a Bomb. The second shows her astride a top of the line BMW RT1200 motorcycle at the factory in Munich, Germany. Both show what she brings to her work – intensity, seriousness and hard play. In an environment with life and death at stake, Lucero is part legal and strategic expert and part motivator.
For their annual Halloween Flash Mob, Lucero has at times been a super hero, another time a Flintstone, but always front and center, dancing with passion that shows it is as important to lift the spirits of patients and staff as it is providing the best medical care in the world. Even the title on Lucero’s LinkedIn profile tells the story – Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel (and of course Chief Flash-mob Officer!)
Lucero’s position at Children’s Hospital fits well in a string of jobs that she describes as “mission based.” Lucero joins a cohort of executive women that help lead at least half the top ten children’s hospitals across the country. Children’s Colorado has been consistently ranked as a top ten pediatric hospital by US News and World Report. She does note, however, that not as many people of color are found in children’s hospital executive suites.
Medical care provided by Children’s includes patients from 30 countries. Lucero takes pride in the more than $20 million in uncompensated care that is provided to indigent patients as part of their commitment to being a ‘Safety Net Institution’. They are the only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center in the Rocky Mountain region. Through education, research and innovation, they provide unmatched pediatric treatment. Patient survival rates are among the top five percent in the United States.
Among all the accolades and high-level strategy are the human stories that keep Lucero coming back for more. She tells of problems bringing radioactive material into the state to treat children with cancer to a new Children’s facility which expanded services and allowed them to keep Colorado patients at home instead of sending them to special hospitals in California. Because of regulations, radioactive chemicals were stopped from coming into the state until Lucero and her team broke the logjam at the State Capitol, winning approval from the Colorado Department of Pharmacy in time to start intense therapy for their first patient. For that groundbreaking treatment, Channel 9 wanted to be present to film the results. With the blessing of the child’s mother, Lucero’s team took the risk to allow access. Thankfully, the child improved and served as an example of the huge impact cutting-edge technology could have for Colorado children.
Lucero is a strong believer that impact made in Colorado are necessary and critical but that service outside the state’s bounds are also important, especially international efforts. That’s why she has partnered with Project Cure and others to bring increased medical care and “…women’s empowerment” to Papua New Guinea, a southwestern Pacific island nation in dire need. Lucero has taken lessons learned from Children’s to the international realm, “helping young girls with healthcare, education and learn of a path away from domestic violence.” She takes the same approach internationally as she does in Colorado, “To keep a population healthy you must provide adequate medical care but you also have to look at social determinants – no grocery stores in the neighborhood, cockroaches in the house… For healthy outcomes it’s important to keep kids in the community and out of hospitals through partnerships and prevention.”
Lucero joined senior administration at Children’s Hospital Colorado after spending half a dozen years at Centaura Health as Vice President of Employee Relations and three years as Denver Deputy City Attorney under then Mayor John Hickenlooper. As Chair of the Board of Trustees at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Lucero helped to guide the college through the thorny politics of in-state tuition for undocumented students, substantial infrastructure growth, and transition to a new president. Other public service includes board membership at the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. As for what’s next career wise, Lucero enjoys her current work too much to envision the next step saying, “They’ll have to kick me out of there.”
Children’s Hospital is located on the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center site between Colfax Ave. and Montview Blvd. and Peoria St. and Fitzsimons Parkway in Aurora. Fitzsimons was closed as a U.S. Army facility in 1999 and the Anschutz Medical Campus was created. Children’s Hospital Colorado opened their current hospital in 2007 and shares the campus with the University of Colorado Hospital and CU School of Medicine, allowing the affiliate to amplify Children’s Hospital services with direct care as well as pediatric research.
Through a ‘Network of Care’ Children’s provides medical service through 3,000 pediatric experts well beyond their single location. Partners include St. Joseph’s Hospital, Memorial Hospital for Children, and Parker Adventist Hospital. Lucero has led negotiations for a new hospital being built as part of the network, in Colorado Springs. The nearly 300,000 square foot facility will fill a big gap in pediatric medical services for the southern part of the state and will include a neonatal intensive care unit, a pediatric intensive care unit, and a clinic for behavioral health. The Colorado Springs hospital will house just under 100 patient beds at a cost of just over $150 million. The five-level facility is expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019.
From their website: “Since 1908 we’ve been caring for kids at all ages and stages of life. We see more, treat more and heal more children than any hospital in our seven-state region. And since we’re pioneering treatments that are shaping the future of pediatrics, we’re providing the best possible care years before it becomes available at other hospitals.”