No-nonsense, straight talker gets numbers right

By John Larrabee
Contributing Writer
Lisa Salerno’s attention to detail makes her a great director of finance, according to her colleagues at XRA Medical Imaging Centers. A second major characteristic is her frankness. More

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No-nonsense, straight talker gets numbers right

INTEREST IN FINANCE AND MORE: Lisa Salerno, the director of finance for XRA Medical Imaging Centers, is not afraid to tackle any task that helps keep the medical-service provider under control.
By John Larrabee
Contributing Writer
Posted 3/31/14

Lisa Salerno’s attention to detail makes her a great director of finance, according to her colleagues at XRA Medical Imaging Centers. A second major characteristic is her frankness.

“She is a no-nonsense plugger who gets whatever work completed no matter how menial or complicated, with the wisdom to involve outside expertise when necessary, and frugal enough to know when that is not needed,” said Philip H. Lynch, executive director of the Cranston-based medical-service provider.

Salerno agrees with that assessment. “I would say it describes me well,” she said. “The landscape of health care today is very challenging. We have reimbursements and fees and surcharges imposed on us by the federal government, and Congress can make changes at the 11th hour. It can be very difficult to budget when you really can’t plan on what your revenues will be.”

She got most of her training in fast-paced New York City, her home-town. While studying accounting at New York City College of Technology, she worked as an input-output control specialist at a large New York apartment complex, which means she verified that rents had been paid. While some people might find working with numbers tedious, that has never been her attitude.

“I’ve always been interested in finances, and how companies can put their finances to the best use and maximize the return,” she said.

Today she’s director of finance for the largest medical-imaging practice in the state. XRA has been in business for 45 years. It now employs 108 people at seven clinics throughout Rhode Island. That includes 23 staff radiologists supported by an organization of 86 full-time-equivalent workers. In addition, the physician-owned organization manages and staffs the radiology departments at South County Hospital, Kent Hospital and Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island. The practice provides patients with everything from MRIs to CAT scans to X-ray services and ultrasound exams.

Salerno joined the organization 13 years ago, after working as controller for a manufacturing company in Rhode Island. She manages negotiations with banks, lenders and vendors; monitors expenses; prepares the annual budget; and develops individual-site financial key-indicator reports. She successfully customized XRA’s financial reporting and key-indicator reports to accommodate the uniqueness of the medical clinic’s work flow, which has allowed the staff to make quick and informed decisions.

Amy Carberry, XRA’s human resources manager, works with Salerno on benefits programs. “Her financial expertise is solid,” Carberry said. “And I can say the same for her personal integrity. If she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll tell you. She handles a multitude of tasks and projects, and she’ll always stick with it until the finished results are delivered. Her devotion to the organization is tremendous.”

“Lisa is relied upon to provide input in many matters beyond her financial knowledge due to her extraordinary common sense and good judgment,” Lynch, the executive director, said. “All of us count on her wisdom and balanced approach to weigh in on corporate matters involving strategic planning, acquisitions, employee matters and almost anything where her sound judgment is sought. … She is a steady oar in a sometimes rough sea. Lisa is our no-spin zone” he said.

“I’ve always tried to keep my eyes on the bottom line,” Salerno said when asked how she keeps things running smoothly. “I’ve started relationships with multiple group-purchasing organizations, which has reduced our expenses. … I maintain good relationships with our banks and lenders.

“I don’t sugar-coat things when I have to report to my superiors,” she added. “Sometimes it’s not what they want to hear, but they rely on me to be straightforward.”

Straightforward is a quality that echoes over and over in different ways in a checklist of Salerno’s accomplishments listed by Lynch, who nominated her for the CFO award. Salerno’s technical skills also are lauded. According to the executive director she produces “annual budgets that are amazingly accurate” and “manages delicate negotiations with banks and lenders.”

Salerno decided she wanted to move to Rhode Island after working for a New York company that had her splitting her time between two locations. When her husband’s New York employer shut down, the Salerno family made the move to West Warwick. That was 23 years ago.

She sees the seaside location and the freedom from big-city bustle as Rhode Island’s top attractions. Through the years she’s been active in school and community organizations. When not working, she enjoys traveling.

“Rhode Island has a slower pace than New York, but it’s not a slow pace,” she said. “I feel fortunate to have come to here. Our two children have completed their educations here, and they’re both working and contributing to society. I really appreciate all of Rhode Island’s positive attributes. If you were born here, you might forget them. Everything is so close. It’s a great place to enjoy the arts. We have the ocean, and the mountains are close, too, which is great when you like winter sports. I think this state is a very well-kept secret.”

She attributes her success to the advice she has received through the years from other professionals in the field, such as the team at Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co.

“The rest of my education came from working in the field for the past 30 years,” she said. “Over the years I’ve been fortunate to work with some excellent professionals in the accounting field, both in New York and here, and I’ve learned a lot from them.”

“Lisa’s credibility shows in all her interactions,” Lynch wrote when nominating Salerno for the CFO award. “Those outside XRA who we deal with in banking, accounting, and vendors will attest to the quality and value of this person’s work.

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