Tessa Teodoro – Inova
Though it might sound cliché, there is some truth to being in the right place at the right time. Especially for Tessa Teodoro and Inova.
Inova is a leading nonprofit healthcare system in Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area, providing care to more than one million patients annually.
With dreams of providing a state-of-the-art cancer center for the region, nine years ago, Inova embarked on the planning process that would bring that vision to life. The blueprints were drawn, and Inova’s leadership team worked with Fairfax County officials to identify the right location, just a few miles from the health system’s headquarters.
In 2015, news broke that Exxon Mobil was moving from Virginia to Texas, leaving its massive headquarters up for sale. Recognizing the potential of this property and the benefit of its location directly across from Inova Fairfax Medical Campus, Inova shifted gears and moved quickly to purchase the property. With this new option, the organization had an opportunity to redesign its cancer center to fit within the Exxon Mobil facility’s footprint. It was a daunting challenge, but one Inova was determined to conquer.
“We overcame countless hurdles to transform an existing office building into an in-patient hospital space and hospital-based outpatient clinical facility necessary to house our cancer center,” says Tessa Teodoro, Inova’s director of facilities management, design and construction. “County approvals, state fire marshal inspections and the Virginia Department of Health requirements were a regular part of the journey, but through strong collaboration, creative solutions and some of the best partners, we successfully worked through the challenges.”
Caring about patient care
After years of hard work and dedication, the new Inova Center for Personalized Health (ICPH) campus, which includes the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, opened for patients in May 2019. ICPH contains a 25-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital, and most recently, the new High Reliability Operations Center (HROC) opened to seamlessly monitor patients and clinical operations across all Inova hospitals 24 hours a day.
Less than a year after ICPH opened, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, forcing Teodoro and her team to ensure the clinics and Cancer Center on the north side of campus continued treating patients throughout the crisis. While the Cancer Center and clinics kept running, construction on the southern side of campus halted for a bit.
“We quickly picked back up with renovations on the towers and buildings and realized that this time was the perfect opportunity to get the work done,” Teodoro recalls.
Having a flexible mindset has been second nature for Teodoro and her team. In December 2020, they converted an existing dining facility into a temporary vaccine clinic, allowing the clinical team to administer more than 100,000 vaccines in three months.
“Being able to adapt and switch gears is a valuable skill in an ever-changing industry,” she says.
Improvements and upgrades
Despite the good fortune Inova found with the Exxon Mobil headquarters, Teodoro and her team faced considerable challenges these past few years.
There have been struggles related to the supply chain and labor shortages, which were exacerbated during the pandemic. The delayed arrival of variable frequency drives, air handler units, automatic transfer switches, electrical panels, light fixtures, and switchgear became a logistical puzzle they had to solve. With alternate plans and resourcefulness, they forged ahead to complete projects without letting construction sites remain idle.
Through it all, Inova has remained committed to its primary goal—providing world-class healthcare to patients in the community they are privileged to serve. Inova’s commitment to growth and progress remained unwavering, and it has massive plans, with new generators, air handling units, linear accelerator replacements, new CT scanners, stormwater ponds and sanitary sewer line infrastructure improvements on the horizon. With 119 acres of campus and one million square feet of developed space, Teodoro says there is enormous potential for expansion.
One example of this occurred in May 2021, when the team, supported by a generous gift from Paul and Linda Saville, opened the Inova Saville Screening and Prevention Center—the first and only center in the region dedicated to providing comprehensive screening, prevention and advocacy for people with all levels of cancer risk. The 24,000-square-foot research and clinical facility was built in a shell space inside Inova Schar Cancer Institute.
And there are further plans for upgrading existing facilities and building new ones in the future.
Following her career blueprint
Teodoro says that when she was a child, her first dream profession was to be a doctor, and she had long been intrigued by the health care industry. In college, she took a different path and earned a degree in civil engineering with a minor in architecture from Carnegie Mellon University—she has been working in the construction industry ever since.
Following college, Teodoro spent over 20 years as a project manager for Rand*, Davis Construction and Turner Construction Company. She joined Inova in a similar role in January 2014 and was elevated to her current position in October 2021.
“It is a dream to see my work come to life, and there is great satisfaction in helping people get the best healthcare,” she says. “I’m not a physician, but I work side-by-side with clinicians on ensuring their spaces allow them to do their jobs and provide high-quality patient care.”
Working for Inova in Northern Virginia has allowed Teodoro to maintain a great work-life balance. She has an easy commute and can enjoy nights at home with her family. There is never a dull moment at work; she is always learning, and despite the occasional late nights and long weekends that come with the work from time to time, she would not change anything.
As a female leader in the construction industry, Teodoro says she is excited when she sees more female team members and leaders on job sites and offices for women on the executive leadership floors.
“We are always looking to bring on more women and watch them grow in our facilities group,” she says with pride. “Construction is not just a job for men.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. I 2024 Edition here.
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