Elissa Charbonneau

D.O. ’88
Elissa Charbonneau

It’s always refreshing to talk to someone who loves what they do. When Elissa Charbonneau, D.O., speaks about her position as chief medical officer of HealthSouth Corporation, you can hear she is thrilled with her job. “I work with really smart people: I respect and admire them,” she says. “And I love the challenge of restoring function to patients’ lives after they have been sick or injured.”

Charbonneau has never shied away from a challenge. She first heard about NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) in Cornell’s career office during her junior year. NYITCOM’s holistic approach and its location close to her hometown made it a perfect fit. Charbonneau recalls how hard the program was. “I was a good student at Cornell and majored in biology, but the first two years of medical school—especially the amount of memorization required—were really difficult.” By the third year, she could envision the light at the end of the tunnel. “The rotations were wonderful,” she says. “I could finally see myself doing this as a career.”

Before Charbonneau became chief medical officer in 2015, she saw patients as a clinical physician and worked as an administrator. She was vice president of medical services for HealthSouth Corporation and medical director of New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland (a joint venture of Maine Medical Center and HealthSouth). Charbonneau was named 2012 HealthSouth Medical Director of the Year for her “outstanding clinical knowledge, exemplary performance in the development of quality clinical programs, and overall excellence in leadership.”

As chief medical officer of HealthSouth, one of the nation’s largest providers of post-acute healthcare services, she oversees more than 100 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals in 34 states and Puerto Rico. In addition to traveling extensively to meet with the organization’s leadership, she attends meetings and conferences relevant to inpatient rehabilitation and works with committees and government agencies that oversee healthcare spending.

To manage such challenging responsibilities, Charbonneau draws on advice she received in medical school: Build strong leadership skills—no matter the role. Once, she was criticized for being shy; an older physician told her, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” Those words stuck with her. Today, Charbonneau advises young doctors that “As the years go by, you will become more self-confident. When you learn from your experiences, you become stronger and better at being a leader.”