Science & Stories

Leader Spotlight: Susan Padrino, M.D., Medical Director, Cleveland

“My kids will tell you I have many mottos—like “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” and “comparison is the thief of joy,” says Dr. Susan Padrino, Medical Director of our Cleveland market. But in her work life, she looks to James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” It reminds her, she says, that “simply having goals is not sufficient.  You need a process for getting there, and it must be part of your regular routine.” More than that, though, is that a single dynamic leader can’t make those goals a reality, either. The organization’s systems must support them.

That’s just one reason Dr. Padrino serves members of AbsoluteCare. As both a psychiatrist and a doctor of internal medicine, she has unique insight into the interconnectivity of our human systems and respects the need to go beyond medicine™ for our members. “AbsoluteCare’s model is designed to meet the whole-person needs of the most vulnerable people in my community, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work here.” She also believes that it’s where she can repair some of the fragmentation of the healthcare system, with physical and behavioral health (mental health, substance use issues) and social needs addressed at once.

Dr. Padrino grew up with a physician father and grandfather, who instilled in her the notion that being entrusted with the care of another person is a “tremendous privilege.” But it’s the combination of science and storytelling that made the healthcare field so irresistible to her. Not only do our members have some incredible stories to tell, but caring for them involves some important storytelling of her own. “I tell stories grounded in science so people can learn to live more full and healthy lives.”

As a leader, Dr. Padrino believes that people—whether it’s teammates or healthcare members—are doing the best they can. While she recognizes that being a leader means having expectations and limits, starting with the belief that everyone wants to show up and do their best is how Dr. Padrino gets those results. “It sets a positive and accepting tone in the workplace and provides the space for team members to come to you with issues that might be holding them back.”

She credits a 20-year practice of yoga for helping her keep an even keel. From it, she learned the concept of balancing ease and effort. “I like to think about my own life balance through this lens. Instead of balancing work and family, I try to balance ease and effort in my life across all the areas that are important to me.”

Dr. Padrino lives in Cleveland with her spouse. She has three teenage children. Her first job was at a shoe store in a slow suburban mall; they rarely had anyone in the store. The hardest part was trying to look busy. It is a skill she has not had to practice since going into medicine.