Ever since she was a little girl, Sue Collier wanted to be a nurse. And when she began to investigate where to pursue that goal, she had only one choice: East Carolina University. She earned an undergraduate degree in nursing from 1977-1981, stayed in Greenville to work as a staff nurse and head nurse in the surgery/trauma intensive care unit at Vidant Medical Center (formerly Pitt County Memorial Hospital), then returned to ECU to complete a master's degree in 1991. Now Collier serves as vice president for patient and family experience at Vidant Health, the parent organization of Vidant Medical Center.
A Rocky Mount native, Collier comes from a family in which service to others was a given. Her mother was a nurse and an active volunteer in the community, her father a treasurer for the local PTA. Other members of her mother's family also were nurses.
The idea of service to community, as signified by ECU's slogan, "Servire," resonated with her growing up and into her college days. She was in the charter group of ECU Ambassadors, she belonged to the Gamma Sigma Sigma service sorority, and she tutored in math and chemistry.
"ECU offered me not just an education, but also a way to give back," she says, and the opportunity to serve is what attracted Collier to become involved in the ECU Women's Roundtable.
She attended a program in 2007 at which the Roundtable recognized 100 top women at ECU, "and I was blown away by the level of leadership these women showed," she said. "It helped connect me with an untapped resource in the community, and it made me realize how women can truly make change happen."
She was invited to join the Women's Roundtable in 2010 and was elected to the board in 2011. "It's inspiring," she says. "It's an experience we don't always get, because we don't always get the chance to be in an assembly of so many brains and so many hearts of those who represent the epitome of female leadership."
Collier herself is an example of community involvement and leadership. She rose through the nursing ranks to become a clinical nurse specialist in 1988, before getting her master's degree. She then became a project manager at the hospital, specializing in patient-focused care and care management in 1993. In 1996, she became administrator of corporate planning and marketing at Vidant Health (formerly University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina).
In 2006, she was appointed as vice president for planning and strategic development for Vidant Health, and in 2009 she was appointed to her current position, vice president of patient and family experience.
Along the way, she has served on the board and been president of the Carolinas Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, and an active member of the Institute of Patient-Family Centered Care. In the Greenville area, she has served on the boards of Children's Hospital of Eastern Carolina, Pitt Community College Foundation, Family Violence Center and Shelter, and most recently United Way of Pitt County, where she co-chairs the Community Impact Cabinet. Among other activities, she also has served as president of the Greenville Community Shelter and past chair of the strategic planning committee of the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce.
In her time at ECU and in Greenville, she has seen changes in the way women are active in their communities and take on more leadership roles. "Women have learned how to influence and make change happen, despite any barriers," she says, and the Women's Roundtable is an agent for such influence and change. "This is not a women's club, and it's not an activist group. We want to harness the talents and resources of women at the university and in the community. We are showing how women can develop a leadership role at ECU and in the community and region." In some respects, the Roundtable, which started in 2003, is still evolving, "but we have hit our stride. We have power that's been exercised through our philanthropy, through our scholarships for future leaders."
Developing future leadership among young women is one area in which she is especially interested. She is involved in the committee that has started a new Roundtable program that links mentors from the community with college students as a way to help the students develop real-world leadership skills. This should instill confidence and assuredness in young women ready to go into the world, she says.
Despite her many community obligations, Collier says she still is deeply involved in the elements of nursing, even though she no longer is "at the bedside." Her current role helps create more and better partnerships between the healthcare providers and patients and their families.
"My experiences at ECU and at the College of Nursing instilled a sense of pride in this region, and a sense of passion and commitment to assure patients and their families have the best possible experience," Collier says.
Going to ECU and now serving on the Women's Roundtable has provided Collier with what she calls a "trifecta"— three objectives being satisfied at once: the opportunity to serve the university and community, to provide leadership development opportunities for women, and support her alma mater.
"It's a chance for me to give back, because I appreciate how much ECU has done for me. Why would I not do this kind of service in the community?
"I didn't believe I would stay in Greenville after completing my undergraduate degree, but I fell in love with the community and the university. Now I am embedded here. There's something magnetic about this place," she says.
"ECU matched so many things important to me and my family. It's not just close to home, but close to heart."