Strong Kids

Chief Nursing Officer Honored with Miracle Maker Award

Jun. 5, 2024
Sue Bezek Wins Recognition for Outstanding Commitment by a Health Care Provider

After more than 45 years serving as a nurse, a nurse practitioner, and a nursing leader at URMC, Sue Bezek, the chief nursing officer at Golisano Children’s Hospital, will be retiring.

Her career has been defined–from the very beginning–by a philosophy that emphasizes putting the needs of patients and families first.

“Making a difference for people who were struggling with their health is what drew me in to the field,” she said.


It didn’t take long for Bezek to find a path in nursing that enabled her to fulfill this goal. While earning her BSN from Villa Maria College, Bezek became enamored with pediatrics during one of her training rotations as a student nurse. Her first nursing position was on the Infant and Toddler unit (4-1600) at Strong Memorial Hospital (SMH). After a year on that unit, she sought to augment her clinical skills in a pediatric intensive-care area and transferred to the NICU.

Soon after her transition to the NICU, she was elevated to the position of nurse leader. “I think I was somebody who had an affinity for problem solving, but I still had to grow my skills to navigate the challenges of leadership,” she said.

One of these challenges was earning the trust and respect of her peers after being promoted into leadership so early in her career. Bezek accomplished this by emphasizing collaborative problem solving with her team.

“I would approach an issue and offer to the team: ‘Here’s how I think we could solve it, would you do it this way? How can we collaborate in finding solutions?’”

After two-and-a-half years in this position, Bezek took on a new role when the URMC Ambulatory Surgical Center opened in December of 1984. Bezek served as a Level II staff nurse, and was the only nurse on staff who had previous experience in pediatrics.

Bezek’s three years in that position offered a great experience to learn about patients and clinicians across the URMC system, all while serving as a resource for her peers about pediatric care. “I learned skills from my colleagues about caring for adult patients but also helped them learn about the care of children,” she said.

While working at the ambulatory center, Bezek began her pursuit of an advanced educational degree in nursing and received a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner degree from the University of Rochester. She subsequently transitioned to serving as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in various Pediatric Divisions – in progressively more responsible roles.

Throughout these roles – from serving as the first PNP in the new Pediatric HIV Program and then as a PNP in the Pediatric Primary Care Practice, to eventually ascending to senior leadership at GCH – Bezek has been guided by words of Dr. Elizabeth McAnarney, former chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

“She told me: ‘If you keep your decisions focused on the right thing to do for the patient and family, all the other things will fall into place,’” said Bezek.

Bezek applied this approach at every level, first as a practicing NP serving patients directly, then in subsequent leadership roles as a senior nurse manager of the Outpatient clinic, followed by associate director of the Sovie Center for Advanced Practice, and subsequently, the director of pediatric nursing and then the inaugural Chief Nursing Officer for Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“In leadership, you don’t necessarily see your impact on a patient-to-patient basis, so you have to really listen to your team, who have these day-to-day experiences with patients and their families, and do collaborative problem solving while trusting their perspective,” she said. This team-focused collaboration has also resulted in advocacy for initiatives that were aimed at improving both patient and staff safety in the past few years.

Through her tenure in leadership, Bezek focused on serving the needs of patients on a population-health level. As her responsibilities grew, so did GCH, from one floor on SMH to the major world-class facility that it is now. During this time, Bezek also witnessed the landscape of pediatric health care change.

“The patient population that we care for is much more acute and complex than when I first started. The families have information at their fingertips through the internet. They have multiple, well-researched, and detailed questions that can make things tougher for clinicians to be at the ready for them and answer in a timely fashion. This requires more collaboration across specialties and more shared knowledge in order for us to serve families best,” she said.

Sue Bezek’s ability to solve problems creatively, build highly effective teams, and remain laser-focused on provision of high quality, family-centered care have made her an effective leader that has contributed greatly to the growth of GCH, according to Tim Stevens, MD, Chief Clinical Officer at GCH.

“Nurses are the first point of care for many of our patients, so fostering a strong patient-first nursing culture is critical for building trust with our community,” he said. “Sue brings a thoughtful, inclusive, and family-focused approach to leadership that has shown great results toward helping children in the region and beyond.”

In addition to her experience as a clinician and leader, Bezek has co-authored a few book chapters, has guest lectured at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, and has won several awards, including the 2010 Ruth Lawrence Academic Faculty Service Award in Community Service, and the 2012 Excellence in Nursing Leadership Award and the 2016 March of Dimes Nurse of the Year in Leadership.