First Coast Success: Hugh Greene, CEO, Baptist Health
Hugh Greene is president and CEO of Baptist Health, a locally owned faith-based health system that includes five hospitals, a primary care network and other services. The system employs more than 9,000 people.
He also is a founding member of the Jacksonville Civic Council and chaired the JAX Chamber and the Florida Hospital Association Board. He has served on several corporate boards as well as in community leadership roles and is vice chair of the University of North Florida board of trustees. He also co-chaired the Economic Development Transition Committee for Mayor Alvin Brown.
Greene, 59, and his wife, Susan, have been married for 36 years and have three grown sons.
The Daily Record interviewed Greene for "First Coast Success," a regular segment on the award-winning 89.9 FM flagship First Coast Connect program, hosted by Melissa Ross.
The interview is scheduled for broadcast this morning and the replay will be at 8 p.m. on the WJCT Arts Channel or online at www.wjctondemand.org.
The following are edited excerpts from the full transcript.
You joined Baptist Health in 1989, almost 25 years ago, and you became CEO in 2000. During that time, Baptist Health expanded from the Downtown Baptist Medical Center to include three more hospitals — Baptist Medical Center Beaches, Baptist Medical Center Nassau and Baptist Medical Center South — and also includes Wolfson Children's Hospital Downtown. Was that your vision?
Our vision really revolves around being a comprehensive health system. The word comprehensive both incorporates geography, so you've seen geographic expansion, the South hospital being a good example of that, but also services that we provide, from hospital services to mental health to home health. The vision was really around the comprehensiveness, and the growth of the system reflects that.
You earned a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University, a Master of Health Administration from the Medical College of Virginia and a Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. What did you intend to do with your divinity degree?
Actually I pastored a church for five years following the receipt of that degree, so obviously I went into professional ministry, probably as much as anything following the footsteps of my father, whose entire career was as a Baptist minister. That was the intent at that point. Sometimes people will kid me about 'why did you leave the ministry?' When you really look at all we do at Baptist, I believe very much that we are about ministering to the total needs of persons. I strongly believe there is continuity to all of that.
What took you from the ministry to health care?
To some degree, self-awareness that I really did realize I had more of a bent toward an administrative business orientation. It is very difficult to make career decisions; I think as a young person, sometimes we rush people along. But also I did chaplaincy training during the course of seminary and absolutely fell in love with the hospital environment, the dynamism of that environment. It is kind of the microcosm of society. That was probably the spark that led me to health administration from professional ministry.
Where did you grow up? What did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in the Carolinas and I use the word plural because we floated between both North and South Carolina with my father being a minister. When I went to Wake Forest, I went there pre-med and quite frankly did very well, but for whatever reason, the sciences were not really where my fascination was. Then my father passed away, a very significant event my junior year in college, quite unexpected, and so that probably was very influential in my pursuing seminary training. I also think you can link back my interest in medicine to what I'm doing now. I kind of see a continuity to all this.
What brought you to Jacksonville and to Baptist Health?
It wasn't Baptist that brought me to Jacksonville. Following my hospital administration residency, I went to work for Hospital Corporation of America, HCA in Nashville, Tennessee. HCA managed what was then Beaches Hospital, so I came to become the administrator of Beaches Hospital and I was the administrator that oversaw the construction of that hospital.
After arriving I got to know Bill Mason, my predecessor at Baptist Health, and moved from that facility to Baptist to be the chief operating officer and subsequently we purchased the Beaches Hospital, so I have great history and great fondness for the Beaches community and for that hospital.
You're heavily involved in the community, such as serving with the University of North Florida. Such roles take a lot of time and commitment. How do you decide where you want to invest that time?
Obviously you respond to opportunities. I have been involved in a number of things, United Way being one of those, the Sulzbacher Center being another. Involvement with higher education, working with (UNF President) John Delaney, that's been quite stimulating. The important thing is making sure that you don't become so involved that you don't do any of it well.
All of this has been very rich experience for me. The common theme is what we often refer to as community trusteeship.
You have developed significant partnerships in the community and a lot of that comes through your community trusteeship. Last year philanthropists and former Jacksonville Jaguars owners Wayne and Delores Weaver made a $10 million gift, which was the largest in Baptist Health history, and you are naming the new patient tower at the campus as the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Tower. Do you believe that your tenure with the Baptist system and your trusteeship with the community have been critical in those relationships?
I believe so. Obviously Baptist has a long history of continuity and leadership. My predecessor was there two decades. That is an important differentiator of Baptist Health. We obviously have enjoyed a very strong relationship from an organizational standpoint, being the health care sponsor of the Jaguars from the outset. I have tremendous community respect for Delores and Wayne Weaver and the important part of that gift that sometimes people overlook is the focus on mental health, something that I am very committed to and Baptist as an organization is very committed to.
While it is a significant monetary gift, I always respect the Weavers' commitment in terms of doing that which others sometimes don't do. Their commitment to pediatric and adolescent mental health takes a certain courage to step out there and say, 'I want to make a difference in an area that is often underfunded.'
What does the city need? You served as chair and in other roles at the JAX Chamber. What direction should the city take?
We've seen a lot of positive things happen. Sometimes I jump on the bandwagon of saying I worry at times about our own self-image and I think we have a lot more to feel good about and to celebrate than sometimes we really pause and do.
When I think about when I arrived in 1988 and the changes that have occurred around the city, I am disappointed at times in some of the decisions we make, and the most recent decision regarding the human rights ordinance. (City Council did not approve the legislation to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.) This is an example of a disappointment of mine, but I do think we will revisit that decision ultimately.
Clearly important to me during my chamber role was focusing on Downtown and its development and vibrancy. I also want us to continue to do a little better job of taking care of the unfortunate folks in our community that don't enjoy the resources that many of us enjoy. We still have a lot of progress to make in terms of breaking down barriers and that's very important to me personally.
What motivates you?
(Speaker and author) Parker Palmer writes a lot about leadership, particularly in the education arena. He basically says that a leader is a person that has an unusual degree of power to influence or to create the conditions under which other people must live, work and have their being, conditions that can either be as shadowy as hell or as illuminating as heaven. A leader has to be responsible for what's going on inside him or herself, lest he or she create more harm than good.
I come back to that quote to say what motivates me is I hope at the end of the day I create more good than harm and shed more light than darkness.
Can you define your philosophical strategy?
I just did by pointing out this concept of a making a difference. My mother, who was a great influence, actually wrote a book in the context of the faith community that says this is our tiny segment of eternity and we get to build on what went before us and to influence what goes ahead of us. In many ways it is a tiny segment that we get to influence, again influencing this time we have in a positive way for the community in which we live.
When you were with the JAX Chamber and also with UNF, you had a lot of insight into the business community. Do you have any advice for small businesses on how to organize their businesses or how to reach the next step?
I am not sure I am the person to advise small businesses since I've never been a small-business owner. It was a great joy serving as chamber chair; you get a glimpse of the challenges and struggles that small businesses face. They are the fabric of the business community and let's not forget that. We give a lot of attention to the major businesses, the larger employers, and yet really in Jacksonville the bulk of the business community is made up of small-business folks.
The only advice I would offer is it's so important to be connected and to be engaged in the community as a way not only of making a difference but also the networking that comes with that and the positive relationships that are established. I think so much of life is relationships. That's probably where I would focus my advice.
A lot of small-business owners say that they work so long and so hard that they sometimes don't have time to branch out, but it sounds like they really need to do that. Those small-business leaders who do find a way to become involved ultimately do find it benefits their business. It's easier for me to say, since I don't have to deal with the struggles they face, but I still think that is very important in terms of building relationships.
What are the one or two major issues facing you as a health care executive?
I believe very strongly that the current health care system really is not sustainable and, by the way, that's not a criticism. We have a wonderful health care system but the problem is it is increasingly unaffordable and also it is not accessible by an increasingly large number of Americans.
I think it's a critical issue that we have 50 million people without health insurance coverage, so against that backdrop the issue that I think all of us face is how do we change the system so that we don't compromise quality but are able to deliver health care in a more proficient manner and at the same time make it accessible and available to all folks in our community. That's the big-picture challenge.
In the short term, what that means is we are going to see a pretty radical change in the way health care providers are paid and that probably is one of the issues that we are facing. Right now we are paid on the basis of volume. We are going to see a shift where our payment is going to be based on outcome and effectiveness. That's a radical and somewhat transformational change and, I would suggest, an appropriate one.
Another issue discussed during the health care debates is the need for the individual to be more proactive with his or her health. Do you see people taking more ownership of staying healthy?
Statistics would probably say that there's not a lot of evidence across the board that people are doing that. Obviously there are examples both ways. I think as a community we need to do those things both in our infrastructure — promoting people getting out, exercising — and we obviously need to commit ourselves to the right food choices and making people aware of the right kind of lifestyle habits.
People are saying that smoking is on the uptick and we obviously have an obesity issue with adolescents. Those are trends that concern me.
What else would you like to share?
As we talk about health care I think you are going to see increased integration and consolidation in the health care industry and I think that is something the people are going to witness over the next several years as we make a shift in the health care system to preserve what's good about it but also to ensure its sustainability long-term.
When we talk about First Coast Success at Baptist, the success is not the success of Hugh Greene. It's the success of a very talented and committed team of people and while I play a minor role in being a symbol of that team, I am always hesitant to even pretend to be responsible for the success that our organization has had as we seek to serve the community.
What are your goals this year and beyond?
I have a really important goal this year in that I am going to become a grandfather in April, so I'm going to really do that well.