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Sister Mary Dorothea Sondgeroth draws on deep faith as a hospital executive and community leader

Sondgeroth still keeping the faith

Spending a day in prayer, meditation, chanting, helping others and attending mass may not be the standard day for most successful executives. Then again, there is hardly anything “standard” about Sister Mary Dorothea Sondgeroth, president of St. Dominic Health Services Inc.

Sondgeroth guides each day of her life with these methods. And, it has been that way since her childhood.

Growing up in Illinois, Sondgeroth was a much-loved child in a very large family. She was also given much responsibility considering her age. Today, Sondgeroth taps on her childhood experience, spending time showing others compassion as well as an abject lesson in ethical respect and hard work.

It has been an amazing and inspirational journey for Sondgeroth. After her father died when she was in seventh grade, Sondgeroth learned a plethora of life lesson from her mother. Sondgeroth describes her mother as a the greatest teacher she’s ever had, helping encourage her to set her goals high and to always serve others before herself.

As Sondgeroth approached graduation from high school, she felt as though the she was being called to the ministry of the church. She points to that as the deciding moment in her career and the number one factor in leading her to lead St. Dominic Health Services.

After graduating from Sacred Heart Academy in Springfield, Ill., Sondgeroth studied piano and voice, dance and tennis while earning a business administration degree at Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa, and a master’s degree in health administration from St. Louis University.

Sondgeroth’s first career direction was in education. She spent her younger years teaching elementary through high school education.

While Sondgeroth was in training to become a Dominican Sister, she was watched by the leaders of her community, and eventually asked to pursue a career in healthcare services. After prayer and deliberation, Sondgeroth returned to college and became a registered dietitian. She was later appointed manager of the Dietetics Department and part-time instructor in the School of Nursing at St. Dominic-Jackson Hospital.

In 1995, Sondgeroth was appointed leader of St. Dominic Heath Services and its subsidiaries. It is here that Sondergroth has carved out a enviable career. Now, more than 13 years later, Sondgeroth still serves as president and board chairman of St. Dominic Health Services and describes herself as a “happy camper.”

Her dedication and commitment are obvious. Each morning, she begins with two hours of prayer followed by mass, meditation and chanting. She explains that sometimes she is presented with a challenge of balancing her religious path and business career, but says that as long as she places prayer first, everything will fall into place behind.

Through her work with St. Dominic, Sondgeroth has helped develop a philosophy of following the mission of the business; to serve others and place religion first and as a guide.

Sondgeroth shuns the spotlight, and in no way presents herself as the sole contributor to the hospital and subsidiaries success. She gives credit to others, and believes that through the great, combined efforts of St Dominic’s staff, the hospital was lead to its current position as one of the leading hospitals in our state.

Since the beginning of her career with St. Dominic, Sondgeroth has seen the arrival of many new, and helpful, additions such as the Cancer Center, the Dominican Plaza, the new IT building and St. Catherine’s Village. Once again, she is loathe to take any credit. She’s a team player, and Sondergroth continually encourages others to provide helping hands and ideas. To her, it is all about serving others and meeting their needs

Her philosophy of others first is evident in her community involvement. Outside of her work with St. Dominic Health Services, Sondgeroth can often been found working with the Jackson Symphony board of directors, Health Services board of directors of Baton Rouge, La., Junior Achievement board of directors, Business Hall of Fame board of directors, St Joseph’s Catholic High School board of directors, serving as president of the Rotary Club and volunteering in a multitude of roles at any of St. Dominic’s subsidiaries.

Sondgeroth is a big college football fan, particularly of Notre Dame’s team. She is also an outdoors enthusiast, and one day Sondgeroth says she plans to visit the salt domes of Louisiana. She says that she finds the weather and flowers of Mississippi delightful.

However, most of all she loves the people, their kindness and hospitality, as well as their willingness to present openly show their religious faith.

When asked what she would hope others would say of her career, Sondgeroth says she wants to be remembered as fair, honest, congenial and an overall good person who loves God and expressed this love to others on a regular basis.

Contact MBJ staff writer Leslie Galloway at leslie.galloway@msbusiness.com .

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