In existence since 1958, Madonna has developed a comprehensive continuum of rehabilitative care helping adults and children overcome disabling injuries or illnesses so that they have the best chance of recovery and are able to once again participate in activities that give their life meaning. Dr. Paul Dongilli will assume the role of President and CEO of Madonna in January of 2016.
Tell us a little about your business. – Madonna is a national leader in specialized rehabilitation programs with physicians and clinical staff trained specifically to treat individuals with brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, and pulmonary conditions. Committed to advancing the field of rehabilitation, Madonna has also established a Research Institute for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering. The Institute is in essence a living laboratory that focuses on the development of technology that will aid in rehabilitative treatments and help patients return to independence.
How did you get started in the business? – I have a clinical background in speech/language pathology. From an early age in school, I was always drawn to a career in medicine. Madonna was my first job and the years spent working with individuals following a stroke or brain injury have provided me solid understanding of the benefits of specialized rehabilitation. While I later worked at Southeast Texas Rehabilitation Hospital near Houston, the mission and vision of this outstanding hospital brought me back to Madonna, where I have dedicated my work for more than 25 years.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally? – Establishing recognition among the medical community of the benefits of specialized rehabilitation and the value it presents as part of the healthcare continuum. Currently there are no Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM & R) residency programs at either of the state’s two medical schools which contributes to this challenge. In fact, no such residency program exists in Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, or Montana for this discipline. As a result, there’s a low level of understanding about rehabilitation and the ability to recognize the difference between therapy and a specialized rehabilitation program.
What has been your most important achievement professionally? – Working with a team to expand Madonna’s programs and services to Omaha. The $93.6 million project is a 110-bed, freestanding rehabilitation hospital, bringing world-class rehabilitation to Omaha. This new Omaha Campus, which will open in the fall of 2016, will double Madonna’s footprint in the Midwest. Together with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), planning for the development of a new physical medicine and rehabilitation department is the first step in establishing a PM & R residency program. Madonna’s new hospital will serve as the primary training site for these residents. The collaboration between Madonna and UNMC will strengthen the clinical and training programs of both organizations and advance a joint rehabilitation research agenda.
Tell us a little about your family. – I’m married and have two children. My wife, Marilyn, like me has a clinical rehabilitation background but hers is in physical therapy. We met serving as staff therapists at Madonna. Our daughter, Sophia, recently graduated from Kansas State University with a master’s degree in teaching English as a foreign language. She’s headed to Peru in September for a teaching assignment. Our son, Dominic, recently graduated from Creighton University with a degree in Biology. He’s employed by the Henry Doorly Zoo as a Keeper of Great Apes.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – God can equip you to do absolutely anything as long as it is His will.