A: I completed a yearlong residency at a hospital in Las Cruces, N.M., near El Paso, which was the sole community provider in the state's poorest county. Then, I worked in health care consulting in Dallas, initially for KPMG, where I gained great experience working with all sizes of hospitals and physician groups nationwide, and then for Tenet Healthcare Corp. Tenet intended to place me in a hospital chief executive position, but I opted for a COO opportunity with a larger facility, Meadowcrest Hospital in New Orleans.
Q: You were working in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. What was that like?
A: It was crazy — mayhem. My hospital is situated on the west bank, so there was no flooding. But we had a limited food supply and there was no air conditioning, electricity or security. Gunshots were sounding all around us, and there was pandemonium and fear. I used to watch similar events on TV and wonder whether I'd sink or swim. I thought I'd be a good leader, but didn't know until then. Meanwhile, colleagues who I thought could meet the challenges, didn't; while those whom I doubted, stepped up. The evacuation, five days later, was like Saigon, with four helicopters on the ground and two circling.
My wife, just two weeks before the storm hit, delivered our second son by c-section. Thankfully, my mom — who was there helping — was able to travel with Kim and the kids to Dallas, where she stayed with her dad. We had no communications with the outside world, so she was worried sick.
The hospital was closed six weeks, after which we rebuilt. I stayed a year post-Katrina as interim chief executive. My predecessor had moved on.
Q: What are your thoughts on health care reform?
A: In some form or fashion, it's necessary, though I don't think we know what it's going to look like yet. Regardless, our challenge is to do more with less and, at the same time, provide the best high quality experience for our patients. Cuts to government reimbursements are going to be tough, because we really have no fat in the system now. But it's going to get tougher, with the prices of salaries and equipment costs continuing to rise. You have to have quality service, leadership and a strong relationship with your medical staff. I believe St. Anthony is well-positioned in all three.
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