Diane Blake has a soft spot for the underdog. As CEO of a rural, critical-access hospital, she’s often at the front lines of sweeping policy changes in healthcare, in Olympia as well as Washington D.C.
“There are distinct challenges in sustainably delivering healthcare services to rural communities, challenges which are often not fully understood by our urban lawmakers,” Blake said.
The American Hospital Association honored Blake with the 2019 Grassroots Champion Award at the Rural Hospital Leadership Conference in Chelan June 26. The award recognizes a leader from each state who carries out their hospital’s mission by building broad community support and effectively working with elected officials.
“Diane is a tireless advocate for rural hospitals and health systems,” said Chelene Whiteaker, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA). “She has been a key leader in public policy at both the state and federal level, and her work has made a true difference in the lives of rural Washingtonians.”
Blake is chair of WSHA’s Rural Hospital Committee. WSHA recently appointed Blake to an officer-elect position on their board of trustees. Blake also serves as chair of the board for the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts.
Bruce Williams, president of Cascade Medical’s board of commissioners, says the award was no surprise to himself and the other four elected board members.
“She has a great combination of intense mission focus, strong intellect, high values and a warm, caring personality,” Williams said. “She brings these same attributes to working outside Cascade Medical. She is an articulate and passionate advocate for Cascade Medical, our patients and our community.”
Blake grew up on a farm near Bridgeport, the youngest of two children. Her family moved to Leavenworth in 1989. She went on to earn a degree in Finance from Gonzaga University. Her first job in healthcare was at Cascade Medical, delivering supplies from the basement.
The leadership at the time noticed that Blake had a natural curiosity about finance and good ideas on how Cascade Medical could improve. Over the years, Blake was promoted to Accounting Director, Controller and then Chief Financial Officer. She became CEO in 2013.
“It is a joy to be part of the Cascade Medical team,” Blake said. “This is a group of people who inspire me everyday with their care of one another and the many people we serve.”