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Improving the Financial Health of Hospitals: Sauk County

Carol May uses her degrees in accounting and healthcare finance to help Sauk Prairie Healthcare.

Carol May

When Carol May was young, she thought she’d be a “nursing nun.”

“I discovered that I had neither the talent nor the aptitude for either one of those,” she says with a laugh.

Instead, May turned to business as a way to enter the healthcare industry, earning a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in healthcare finance at UW-Madison in the 1970s.

She worked at Minneapolis’ Mount Sinai Hospital for a couple of years, then spent 26 years at the Mercy Health System Corporation in Janesville, finishing as corporate controller. Then, in her mid-50s, she got the bug to be chief financial officer of a small hospital.

There was a catch: as a lifelong Badger fan, the job needed to be within two hours of Camp Randall Stadium. May landed at Sauk Prairie Healthcare as vice president of finance and operations and CFO.

UW-Madison fosters an intellectual curiosity. What they’re teaching is critical thinking.

“It’s patient centered and extremely friendly,” she says. “In the economic difficulties of 2008, we didn’t cut back on employee benefits. We knew our employees needed that. The relationship between a hospital and its community is very symbiotic.”

May joined Sauk Prairie Healthcare as it mapped its new $75 million, 36-bed hospital, providing the rare chance to plan, finance, and build a new hospital.

“It’s energizing to have a new challenge late in your career,” says May, who is nearing retirement.

May is also treasurer of River Arts, Inc., an arts group that arranges shows at the Sauk Prairie performing arts center, has a retail gallery for local artists (River Arts on Water), and is planning a riverside studio allowing people to explore the arts.

May’s UW-Madison education helped her to view the world differently.

“A UW-Madison education prepares you for working with people who are different than you,” she says. “You have to interact with a world of people. And, UW-Madison fosters an intellectual curiosity. What they’re teaching is critical thinking.”

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