Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Maria Fe White
Oct 23, 2020 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Meet nurse Maria Fe White! The nurse practitioner not only manages 70 people in the Advanced Heart Disease and Lung Transplant programs at Cedars-Sinai—she's an athlete with an inspiring record and an even more inspiring attitude.
"Cedars-Sinai is a special place because of how it treats not only its patients, but everybody who works here."
You were on Cedars-Sinai's 2019 Tough Mudder team. Tell us about that.
Maria Fe White: It started when I joined Cedars-Sinai's Boot Camp, one of many wonderful programs available to employees. One of its objectives is to train participants for Tough Mudder, an intense event with 5 kilometers of obstacles that often involve things people are scared of—like fire, heights and water. It's an endurance test in the truest sense, both mental and physical.
Why did you take on such a famously tough competition?
MFW: I like to set a major goal for every milestone decade. For my 60th birthday, I decided I would compete in Tough Mudder. It felt like something I could do if I worked hard, so why not? Exercise is key to being healthy and happy, and it really helps to set goals and challenge yourself. It keeps you honest and there's such a sense of accomplishment at the end.
What was the best thing about joining the team?
MFW: The camaraderie with people from the whole Cedars-Sinai family! I got to know folks from areas as diverse as IT (information technology), research and billing. It takes a lot of outstanding people to run a hospital like Cedars-Sinai. We all bring the same commitment to our jobs that we brought to the Tough Mudder. And that's saying something!
During the pandemic, how do you keep up your training when gyms are closed and people may be afraid to venture outside?
MFW: Those are not reasons to be sedentary. I'm doing yoga and I got an indoor bike. Even without equipment, you can take online classes, and it's possible to work out safely outside if you're careful. Every day, you should do something to move. It's the fuel to maintain work and life balance. Just check with your doctor to make sure you're starting safely.
You've described Cedars-Sinai as your true professional home. What do you mean?
MFW: I started working at Cedars-Sinai back in 1990 as a critical nurse specialist, and I loved it. When I became a nurse practitioner (NP) in 2000, I left because I needed to get more experience as an NP elsewhere. I spent years away and I missed it so much! I was thrilled when I was able to return, this time as a seasoned NP. Cedars-Sinai is a special place because of how it treats not only its patients, but everybody who works here. Now I've been here long enough to receive the President's Award twice—a rare honor, I am told!
What is your day-to-day job like?
MFW: As an associate director, I oversee a team that manages patients who need sophisticated interventions including heart transplants, lung transplants and mechanical circulatory support. Lots of patients get referred to our center because Cedars-Sinai has the largest adult heart transplant program in the nation. Being physically active gives me the strength and stamina to keep going, even on tough days.
Has the pandemic changed your job?
MFW: Kindness is always important, but never more so than now. Part of my job is to help put my staff at ease, and I approach everyone with love and empathy. The first week of the pandemic, all our appointments were video visits. Since July, we've been about 80% in person and 20% video visits. I love being at the hospital—hearing someone laughing down the hall, seeing a grateful patient—it's so powerful.
You've won races and earned many distinctions, including Nurse of the Year. Any other stand-out moments?
MFW: I got to throw a first pitch at a Dodgers game on Healthcare Night a few years ago! I was treated to an amazing pregame experience: I hung out in the dugout, the field and the Dodger museum, and even got featured on the Jumbotron for the pitch and announcement of the game. My entire Medical Leadership and Nursing team showed up for support. It was such a fun night!
You mentioned that you like to set goals for milestone birthdays. What's on deck for age 70?
MFW: I'm aiming for the Cascade Ride, a 200-mile bicycle trip that goes from the University of Washington to Vancouver. I'm already training for it, mostly on my indoor bike. Now I just have to think of what to do in my golden years because I have no plans to slow down!