Leadership: We Are All Leaders at UConn Health

Anne Horbatuck, RN, Chief Operating Officer for the UConn Medical Group at UConn Health, is highlighted as an exemplar leader. We’ve asked her to share her insight and experiences gathered from the last four decades with us here at UConn Health, the state’s only public academic health system.

Anne Horbatuck, RN (UConn Health Photo/Tina Encarnacion).

Anne Horbatuck, RN (UConn Health Photo/Tina Encarnacion).

Leadership is one of the core values of UConn Health, and Chief Operating Officer Anne Horbatuck has embodied it throughout her 40-year career at UConn Health.

Horbatuck, just like the longstanding UConn Health value of leadership, personifies how our workforce members “promote professionalism, compassion, diversity, and social responsibility in all areas.”

We sat down with Horbatuck to better understand from her perspective, what is the essence of leadership. At UConn Health she believes strongly that title is not what makes the leader; instead, each member of our workforce are all our leaders. Leadership is a collective here at UConn Health, with all of us bleeding UConn blue, all united in the mission of public service to our citizens. Together we are rising to the changes, challenges and opportunities on the horizon.

“Whenever I’m asked why I have stayed so long at one institution, I think that every time I thought about doing something else, I reflect on the people I work with, the overall mission, the new challenges that I was presented with, and truly believe we can make a difference,” says Horbatuck who grew up in Canton.

For Horbatuck, in addition to the importance of leadership, trust, quality and dedication are also core values she holds dear as a leader.  Her team is crucially important to her as she knows that strong leadership teams are key, not just one singular voice. Further demonstrating this, many of her leaders have been with her for decades, moving to new areas within the institution with her, as they too feel this connection.

When reflecting on how everything started, Horbatuck says she knew that she wanted to help others, and that path was as a nurse. She attended Russell Sage College in Troy, New York for nursing. In her senior year, she did a concentration in pediatrics and orthopedics, working in specific pediatric emergency departments and pediatric orthopedic units as part of her nurse training.

When she returned to Connecticut she knew she wanted to work at UConn, and in 1983, Horbatuck started as a surgical/orthopedic staff nurse at John Dempsey Hospital’s 7th floor, working with an exceptional team in which she created long lasting relationships.  Later she was presented with the opportunity to move her career in the direction of assistant nurse manager. Although hesitant at first, she recognized that a management position would allow her to make an impact on the system as a whole, where she could have the best of both worlds, continuing her clinical work but also put into motion the positive changes she felt were needed to advance the nursing profession.

Right as she had decided to accept the assistant nurse manager role, her nurse manager announced that she was leaving and that Horbatuck would instead be named interim nurse manager, which was a step that took Horbatuck by surprise. When reflecting on this Horbatuck remembers the time as one filled with both excitement and trepidation. Shortly thereafter she interviewed for the permanent position and her peers, surgeons and leaders choose her for the permanent role.

During her time as a nurse manager, Horbatuck obtained her MBA.  “I wouldn’t be here today without the mentorship of a few key people, one of which was Florence Mallot, who suggested I focus my master’s degree on nurse management,” says Horbatuck.  “But I wanted to be able to understand more of the financial and business side of health care and went the business, MBA route, which wasn’t the norm at that time.  I wanted to speak the same language as the financial team and make sure my staff had what they needed to effectively do their job. I knew an MBA would allow me to have a seat at the table.”

Over Horbatucks many years as a nurse manager, the structure at the health center changed and as a result, multiple additional inpatient units, service lines, float pool, staffing and payroll office, and the computerized staffing model were all added under Horbatuck’s leadership.

Years later, the institution was being led by Dr. Peter Deckers and he worked with the State of Connecticut to move UConn Health forward both clinically and financially by creating signature programs in addition to the foundation programs.  The signature programs would focus on the strength of the institution’s three missions of education, clinical, and research and work to create a synergy between them.

Dr. Peter Deckers recognized Horbatuck as a standout leader working in the hospital setting and was approached by Deckers with an offer to take on this innovative new direction for the institution. Ultimately Horbatuck was named director of Signature Programs. In this role she worked closely with Deckers and others to hire leaders in these areas that would grow these programs across the institution’s tripartite mission.  The goal was to create programs to have integration and collaboration between them and provide translational research and care. These signature programs were the foundation of what we now know to be the Calhoun Cardiology Center, the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Musculoskeletal Institute.

The highly successful Signature Programs grew large enough to allow Horbatuck to shift her focus to the Musculoskeletal Institute, returning to her clinical passion of orthopedics, and she accepted the Director/Operating Officer role of the New England Musculoskeletal Institute, what we now know as the Musculoskeletal Institute (MSI). She was tasked with not only building the program with the new leaders and chairman, but even worked with the architects to create a specific design for the actual building.

She continued to explore opportunities and integrated dental into the Musculoskeletal Institute by developing and starting a dental implant center, as well as working with Dr. Cato T. Laurencin on the development of the Institute of Regenerative Engineering.

During another reorganization, Dr. Andy Agwunobi asked her to step into the interim role of Vice President of Ambulatory Services which was made permanent in 2016.

When Agwunobi became interim President of the University of Connecticut, in addition to his role as CEO of UConn Health, Horbatuck was named Interim Chief Operating Officer for the UConn Medical Group (UMG) and Vice President of Ambulatory Operation/Services.  That role became permanent with Interim UConn Health CEO Dr. Bruce T. Liang’s appointment of her.

Over the last decade, under Horbatuck’s leadership, UConn Health’s extraordinary growth has included a nearly doubling in outpatient care visits. Her leadership has helped establish new outpatient care sites such as UConn Health Simsbury, UConn Health Putnam, UConn Health Torrington, and most recently in Farmington UConn Center on Aging’s new 21 South Road location for geriatric care and The Brain and Spine Institute at 5 Munson Road.

Horbatuck was also instrumental in UConn Health’s COVID-19 response, policies and safety protocols. She led the creation of a COVID-19 Call Center for the community and employees, helped mobilize state-wide efforts with FEMA for its FEMA Mobile Vaccination Unit, while also establishing the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic.

“UConn Health is an exceptional place with quality patient care, major opportunities for continued growth, and most of all fantastic people.  It is truly an honor to work with such a brilliant group of dedicated leaders, doctors, directors, and staff,” says Horbatuck.

“I encourage those interested in nursing and many other medical fields working at UConn Health to talk to people who are already working in the area and learn about the diverse opportunity out there,” says Horbatuck.

A few quotes that are key to Horbatuck about the value leadership are:

“Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals,” by Anonymous.

And “I think one of the keys to leadership is recognizing that everybody has gifts and talents. A good leader will learn how to harness those gifts toward the same goal,” once said Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development.

Horbatuck concludes: “I am so fortunate to be at UConn Health.”

And for the last four decades UConn Health has been very fortunate too.


This content is part of a collaborative initiative of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with UConn Health’s Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Jeffrey Hines, to celebrate the institution’s shared values and its workforce. Send your word-of-the-month nominations to thehub@uchc.edu.