While Annie Rizzo is just starting a new, exciting role in her employment at Indiana Regional Medical Center, the seeds of her career were planted there in the spring of 2014, when she participated in an internship in the marketing department.
“It was a segue to what brought me back to the hospital,” said Rizzo, who transitioned into her new position as director of marketing and community relations earlier this month.
Rizzo, a Heilwood native, has worked in the marketing department of IRMC for five years and previously as the marketing manager for the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce.
She was drawn back to Indiana by her family and friends from Orlando, Fla., after she participated in the Disney College Program upon graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“I love Indiana, the small-town feel,” she said. “I hated being away from family and friends. I really believe everything comes full circle. It was fate to come back and serve the community at the hospital that’s treated family and friends. It’s been rewarding.”
Rizzo said she “went to college with really no game plan.”
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I went in and didn’t have a major.”
Then she fell in love with marketing.
“There’s endless opportunity to what you can do in that field,” she said. “I feel fortunate I was able to find something I’m really passionate about.”
In college, she participated in internships at IRMC, Disney and IUP.
At IRMC, she focused on social media and internal communications and at IUP, she worked in the public relations department.
At Disney, she gained what she described as “real-world experience and exposure to a company that has the magnitude of Disney.”
“Everyone knows Disney,” Rizzo said. “Customer service is what they pride themselves on. At Disney, that’s when I became passionate about the customer service experience.”
She brought that philosophy back to IRMC. While hospital patients aren’t exactly on vacation, they are guests.
“It really translated for me to bring that back to Indiana and do the same for patients in the community, just in a different situation,” she said.
In her years at IRMC, Rizzo has crafted marketing and public relations campaigns and worked on brand management and provided health opportunities “to patients, potential patients and the community as a whole.”
“Marketing is such a broad field,” she said. “You get to be creative and provide awareness to services people might not know about otherwise.”
Rizzo’s service to the community goes beyond her career at IRMC and extends into volunteerism.
Last year, she was co-chairwoman of the Indiana County United Way’s 90th anniversary fundraising campaign that wrapped up in February and raised $661,030.90.
She’s also involved in the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals, IRMC Auxiliary, Heilwood Sportsmans Club and has helped with local political campaigns.
The United Way Campaign, she said, “proves how important volunteerism is” and showed her “another reason I love Indiana County.”
“People are supportive, generous and willing to give back and give a hand when they can,” she said.
The campaign was like its own full-time job, and now that she and co-chairwoman Amanda Augustine have passed the torch, a weight has been lifted. But in its absence, there’s also a void.
“I’m eager to get involved, to continue that volunteerism,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo credits IRMC for allowing her time and flexibility during the United Way Campaign.
“IRMC really cares about the community,” she said.
Organization was also crucial for Rizzo to find time for all her endeavors, as well as maintaining “a good work/life balance.”
Finding time to decompress is very important, she said.
She likes to bike indoors and outdoors, read and go for walks and also enjoys traveling, especially to Disney.
In her new position at IRMC, Rizzo will be responsible for marketing plans for service lines and physicians and is involved with patient engagement, strategies to drive online traffic, planning community events and coming up with ways to ensure IRMC stays competitive.
She’s looking forward to a return to normalcy, as the COVID-19 pandemic presented special challenges and an “ever-changing environment” for the health care field.
“The pandemic has shifted the way we market any type of service,” Rizzo said. “That’s probably the challenge more than anything — finding new ways to reach our audience.”
It required creativity, versatility and the ability to adapt, she said.
Now, she said, it’s time to focus on getting people back to IRMC after many missed appointments.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out in the community again and meeting with potential patients and current patients to get them the care they need and preventive care,” she said. “So many people put that off during the pandemic.”
Educating the community on health is an important aspect of her job.
“They don’t put their health first,” she said. “I think it’s important to convey that message back to the community, letting them know what’s here and helping them navigate that.”
At IRMC, Rizzo said patients can receive “big city hospital services right here.”
Through her career and her volunteerism, what Rizzo enjoys most is meeting the people.
“Everyone that you come in contact with throughout your life … wherever it might be, alternately they can have some kind of impact to your future. I’ve met so many people … You just never know when you’ll cross paths with that person again.”
She encourages others to “stay focused and not give up on anything.”
“Once you set your mind to it, it can always be done,” Rizzo said. “Keep that dream alive.”