CEO and Chairman, LCTA Workers’ Comp.
(Photography by Marie Constantin)
If Melissa Campesi’s career had gone as planned, she’d be working as a pediatric clinical nurse specialist. But, as often is the case, life had other plans.
Today, Campesi serves as CEO and chairman of the board at LCTA Workers’ Comp, one of the Capital Region’s top 100 private companies and the largest workers’ comp fund in Louisiana. In this position, Campesi has responsibility for operations, governance, strategic planning, growth and financial stability of the company, which currently has 40 employees, $30 million in annual premiums and close to $85 million in assets on its balance sheet. Before joining LCTA, Campesi worked for 30 years at Tulane Medical Center, where she served as chief nursing officer, chief operating officer and director of Tulane Physician Clinics.
Campesi, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette), says she initially chose to pursue a nursing career because it was one of two options presented to her.
“When I was making plans for college, my mother told me there were only two career choices for a woman: teaching or nursing,” she says.
She began her career at Tulane Medical Center when the hospital was less than one year old. After nine months, she was managing a nursing unit. “Budgets, negotiating for salary increases and resources for my department were a challenge, so at that point, I decided an MBA would give me the financial and administrative background I needed to be more successful in my job,” she says. Campesi says earning her MBA “gave me more options than the two I thought I had.”
She worked at Tulane Medical Center when HCA Healthcare Corp., which owned 18 hospitals in Louisiana, bought Tulane University Hospital. “The national corporate structure focused on a return to shareholders, so we had to adjust to adhere to the new company’s expectations,” she says. “Quality patient care remained a priority in our nursing department, but many other aspects of the organization changed.”
These changes provided Campesi with a career opportunity, and she went to work at HCA’s Louisiana corporate office as the director of quality improvement. Two years later, she returned to Tulane as chief operating officer.
One of Campesi’s particularly memorable achievements came in 1998, when she managed Tulane Hospital operations during Hurricane Georges. “We accepted all of the patients from a small hospital and a nursing home in New Orleans East that were expected to flood. This was the first hurricane where many New Orleanians decided to evacuate,” she says. “For three days, we housed and fed all Tulane Hospital and medical school employees and their families—nearly 5,000 people. We had to fly in food, set curfews and worry about security issues, all while keeping two separate hospitals and a nursing home running within one building. It was true crisis management.”
Campesi took over as LCTA’s CEO and chairman in June 2013. Under Campesi’s leadership, LCTA has focused on financial stability and growth. “Our team is in the process of converting from a self-insured fund to an admitted carrier. It is a major move for us, and I’m proud of the hard work our team is putting into this major change,” she says.
She also has been crucial to LCTA’s philanthropic activities, including the company’s involvement with Junior Achievement, the Salvation Army, the Shepherd’s Market and LPB’s Young Heroes.
Campesi says the business world has changed significantly for women since she began her career. “I started when you saw a predominantly female profession in the nursing department, but you never saw a woman in a leadership role in any other department,” she says. “Today there are many women in hospital CEO or COO roles as well as other professional departments in a hospital.”
Campesi advises women starting in business today to “look for the opportunity to be part of a great team with smart people who are the experts you can learn from, and who have a passion for doing the right thing and creating new opportunities.” And be flexible, adaptable and open-minded, she says. “Take risks, be prepared to make tough decisions and don’t be afraid of failure.”
Indeed, she emphasizes that a person’s career can take a decidedly different path than they would expect. “The first thing I was taught at my first job was how to make a cup of coffee for each physician,” she says. “When I left Tulane after 30 years, I was negotiating with the university CFO. You don’t know where your career is going to go.”
Points of Influence
-Oversees operations, governance, strategic planning, growth and financial stability of LCTA, which currently has $30 million in annual premium and close to $85 million in assets on its balance sheet.
-Under her leadership, the company is converting from a self-insured fund to an admitted carrier.
-Crucial to LCTA’s philanthropic activities, including the company’s involvement with Junior Achievement, the Salvation Army, the Shepherd’s Market and LPB’s Young Heroes.