Meet Susanna Brent, Sr. Director, Executive & Internal Communications for UVA Health

Celebrate Susanna's Contributions to UVA

Susanna Brent, Senior Director for Executive and Internal Communications for UVA Health, has served the state of Virginia for 30 years, 27 of which have been with UVA Health. As she nears retirement next month, UVA HR Communications asked her to reflect on her time at UVA and share insights from her experiences. Some of her colleagues also had a few words to say about Susanna, which you'll see below and in the right column!

Susanna Brent headshotPlease tell us about yourself.

Born at UVA and having grown up in Charlottesville and around UVA (my mother worked and retired from UVA Health for over 40 years), I have been passionate about this health system since day one.

It has been my absolute honor to serve in a variety of roles throughout this time, from HR to Marketing and Communications. In every role I have held in this organization, my primary goal has been to contribute positively to UVA Health, its patients and our teams — from recruiting to fill essential vacancies to finding a professional home for many (possibly thousands) of team members over the years; from building a communication ecosystem to support a growing organization and each team member, to evolving and protecting the UVA Health brand. All my work is done out of a true passion for this place and none of this work would have been possible without the amazing people who make up our UVA Health.

Is there one project you’ve been working on that you’re most proud of that directly benefited the UVA community?

Over the years there has been so much work to be proud of here at UVA Health. From my early days as a recruiter/recruitment manager, it was so meaningful to identify top talent who could grow their careers here at UVA and contribute to the mission of our growing organization. I loved being a part of an individual’s career journey and helping hiring managers fill critical needs on their teams. From time to time, I still run across a team member I recruited to UVA, which is a little cherry on top of my 12-year career with HR.

My subsequent years in Marketing and Communications have been full of highly rewarding initiatives. From evolving the UVA Health brand to developing a team member experience program (Uteam), I have been passionate about telling the stories and enhancing communications for and about our organization to numerous audiences including our team members, patients, families, visitors, consumers, referring providers, community partners, and more.

It would be hard to pick one project, because I am so proud of the many brand campaigns for UVA Health and UVA Children’s that I have led or been a part of, in addition to the development and growth of all internal communications channels like UVA Connect. I am extraordinarily proud of the work we did to streamline and focus communications (through UVA Health Update and other channels) during the COVID-19 pandemic so team members could have a source of truth in such a stressful and rapidly changing healthcare environment. 

Susanna personifies the word “team” in our UVA Health “Uteam” culture. She has brought this philosophy to her work every day for 27 years – that’s nearly 10,000 days of pure commitment to UVA Health and her colleagues. Ever humble, when Susanna received kudos or accolades, she was always quick to say, “I have a great team.” While that may be true, the fact remains: Susanna’s amazing. Both in her role as strategic communications partner to her many internal stakeholders and in her roles as mentor and friend to those on her own team, Susanna has provided her time, perspective, and insights both generously and with extraordinary dedication. A true servant leader, Susanna has consistently gone above and beyond, day or night, to get the job done, and get the job done well. If you’ve seen, read, or heard about UVA Health in the past quarter century — you’ve experienced Susanna’s work. Of special note is the communications leadership she provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. Never rattled or overwhelmed during the crisis, Susanna ensured team members were consistently informed during a time of great uncertainty. It is not hyperbole to say: In the darkest days of the past few years, Susanna was the light that helped us find the path forward. Those who know Susanna know that she always rises to the challenge, is always accountable, always insightful, and always wanting to do right by her UVA Health colleagues. Also: She’s just so darned nice. Over the years, her gifts were thoughtful, her compassion was genuine, and her guidance was invaluable. We are all fortunate to have spent time at UVA Health while Susanna Brent was here. The institution was elevated because of her. Colleagues were made better by having worked at her side. Susanna’s friends in the Office of Strategic Marketing & Communications — and across all of the University! — will miss her dearly. Please “raise a virtual glass” as we toast Susanna, say thank you, and wish her the best in her retirement journey! Lisa Badeau, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, UVA Health

Please explain how you partner with groups across Grounds to maximize success for those teams.

Collaboration and partnerships are essential to all the work we do in Strategic Marketing and Communications. We maintain valuable partnerships across Grounds, and we are committed to telling the extraordinary stories of our people and teams, helping our organization manage through change initiatives, and finding new and exciting ways to connect our team members to the UVA Health mission, vision, and values. 

What values do you hold dear, and how do those values tie in with the ASPIRE values?

Values inspire, motivate and engage people – both personally and professionally. Having been a part of the development of our ASPIRE values many years ago, I hold each of those values as very dear. For me, respect, integrity, and equity are the values that drive so much of my work in communications — work that demands honesty, transparency, fairness, and mutual respect.

How does the work of the Marketing and Communications team show the UVA community what a collection of people are capable of?

Strategic Relations and Marketing is home to an award-winning team with a range of experiences in marketing and communications strategy, writing, editing, digital and print design, videography, and so much more. Our work spans global news and media relations, social media, research communications, crisis communications, operational communications, oversight of the UVA Health brand and identity system, digital and creative communications, and more. Our team is responsible for shaping and delivering an effective communications strategy for our growing and changing organization. We take seriously our responsibility to help advance the goals of UVA Health, especially as we embark on a new 10-year strategic plan. 

Susanna Brent and her familyHow do you and/or your team ensure people, teams, and organizations across Grounds can do their best work every day?

We delight in finding creative ways to share information across the entities of UVA Health and to highlight the extraordinary people and achievements that occur daily across our health system. The Executive and Internal Communications teams are responsible for the publication of several communications channels (many in partnership with UVA Health leaders), like Connect, UVA Health Update, Vision and Voice, Medicine in Motion, We Hear You Wednesday Weekly, and CEO's List and Community Update. These channels are produced to ensure team members have the most up-to-date information about what is happening within our organization (strategically and operationally) and provide a means to recognize the many contributions of our team members. In addition, our internal communications team consists of experienced communications planners who work with many teams across the organization to map out communications for new and/or change initiatives across the health system.

We invite all of our team members to partner with us to help tell the story of who we are and what our teams do. Almost all of the channels above have a “Contact Us”, “Comment” or “Submit News” feature (but you can always contact me directly). Keep the great story ideas coming!
What is the most challenging part of your job?

Volume and capacity are a challenge. We are proud to be a part of an organization so committed to and with an insatiable appetite for broad, transparent communications. As our organization grows, so have the demands for communications. We are up for this challenge and thrilled to answer the call.
What about the most rewarding part? 

As part of this amazing team, I get to tell the meaningful stories of UVA Health team members who are doing extraordinary things. And in supporting the operations of the organization, I hope the work we do makes it easier for our team members to do their jobs by keeping them informed about any changes and progress we are making as an organization.

What are some takeaways you would love your UVA colleagues to know about the work you do?

Our team exists because of the exceptional work you do every day. We are so proud of the work you do and are honored to be able to share it across our teams and beyond. We are here as a unique tool for you and the organization to further share important information and to advance the conversations about our health system.

Additional Comments by Susanna's Colleagues (see more on right)

In my short time with UVA Health, Susanna has become my go-to.  Not only does she know everyone and everything, Susanna is also patient, thoughtful and strategic.  She never defaults to “this is how it’s always been done” that so many other people with years of experience often do.  I wish her the best of luck in this new chapter of her life!  --Megan Stanley, Associate Chief, Digital Marketing & Engagement

For the 12 years I’ve worked here, Susanna has stood as a pillar of grace and resilience. I’ve always been able to count on her authenticity, measured wisdom, and compassion to steer me through choppy waters. I’m so grateful for every minute she’s taken the time to listen and encourage anyone and everyone who has sought her counsel. I look up to her and always will. -- Amy-Sarah Marshall, Lead Content Manager

I have worked with Susanna for over a decade and in that time, she has not only written, published and rolled out the values of our organization—she has lived them every single day. Susanna never fails to rise to the occasion and do whatever needs to be done. During the pandemic Susanna took it upon herself to keep in touch with those of us who were furloughed while keeping the department on track. She’s been more than my manager; she has become a trusted friend. -- Tracy C. McFadden, Production and Traffic Specialist

Susanna is such a special person. She’s very kind and considerate...always knows what to do in any situation. No matter the question, she always has the answer. I have so much respect for Susanna and I so hate to see her leave. I believe I’m still in denial. Best of luck and lots of love to you. You are the best and you will do the best. You will be truly missed. -- Kay Taylor, Photographer

I have huge shoes to fill and am hoping I do you proud!! While I’m doing that, I hope you enjoy a well-deserved retirement for all the years you gave to UVA Health! -- Grace Dusseau, Director of Executive Communications & Strategic Initiatives