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October 16, 2023 / 2023 Power 25 Health Care

2023 Power 25 Health Care: Sonja LaBarbera

Sonja LaBarbera, CEO, Gaylord Specialty Healthcare

Gaylord Specialty Healthcare has been undergoing a transformation under Sonja LaBarbera’s leadership.

LaBarbera is president and CEO of Wallingford-based Gaylord, which is in the midst of a multiyear, $10-million renovation project. More than 100 inpatient rooms, family and staff areas are being revamped to have a more home-like atmosphere. The project, as of late September, was about 75% finished.

The 137-bed Wallingford-based nonprofit hospital provides rehabilitation services to patients who have experienced a variety of health situations, from accidents to strokes.

LaBarbera became the first woman to ever lead Gaylord when she stepped into the CEO post in early 2019.

LaBarbera oversees about 1,000 employees and an organization that generated $92 million in revenue in fiscal year 2021. She started working at Gaylord in 2005, with her first role as director of inpatient therapy.

Her background is as a speech language pathologist, and she rose through the hospital ranks, serving as chief operating officer prior to her current role.

During her tenure, Gaylord has focused on training future caregivers. Gaylord has a partnership with the UConn School of Medicine, Hartford Hospital and UConn Health for a rehab physicians residency program. Gaylord also launched a new certified nursing assistant academy, which gives students hands-on experience caring for patients.

In 2022, LaBarbera helped Gaylord secure $4.5 million in state bond funds to upgrade the hospital’s 18-year-old electronic medical records system, allowing for streamlined communications with referring hospitals and physicians, and faster admissions.

Gaylord has also expanded its footprint beyond Wallingford, with locations in Cheshire, Cromwell, Madison and North Haven.

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