How One Woman’s Desire for Learning Took her to the Top


Renown Health Chief Operating Officer of Acute Services, Dawn Ahner, DSc, FACHE, worked her way up the ladder through hard work, the constant need for learning and raising her hand to take on new projects.

Dawn Ahner, DSc, FACHE, began her career at Renown in 1993 as a Financial Analyst doing budgets for what was then called Washoe Medical Center. From there, her role expanded to Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer over Shared Services and Transitional Care at Renown.

Ahner was recently made the head of Renown’s acute services division, a team responsible for taking care of tens of thousands of patients each year. This move was part of Renown’s new three-year strategic plan, centered on the health system remaining a locally owned not-for-profit organization that meets the community’s healthcare needs by exceeding people’s expectations for affordability and accessibility.

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When asked about her time at Renown, Ahner says, “Thinking back over the past 26 years, what stands out the most are two things. One was just being involved and a part of the planning, building and financing of the Tahoe Tower on the regional campus.”

The second was creating what’s called ‘Transformational Health Care’ in this organization. Transformational Health Care is a system based on people who are constantly improving what they do, reducing waste and improving value. “This is another thing I remember about my career here very fondly and just the difference it made in the culture and how engaged people were in the work,” says Ahner.

Her challenging career has gone beyond the walls of the hospital. Recently, Ahner returned to college to garner a doctorate. She now has her Doctor of Science (DSc) in Health Care Leadership, which she says will be useful in her new role over acute services.

“I always say that you learn the most by stepping outside of your comfort zone. So I’ve tried to do that over the years and push myself to take areas that I maybe don’t have as much knowledge in. But that’s what’s kept me here – the ability to keep learning and growing, and being given new opportunities,” says Ahner.

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