When he speaks at employee orientations, Chuck Spicer, chief executive of OU Medical System, urges every class of new hires not to forget why they chose to work in health care.
“The industry has become such a business — with a lot of money at stake — that it’s easy to get lost in why you’re in it,” he said.
Spicer needs only to look to his son as a reminder. For the first seven years of his life, his son was in five different hospitals, Spicer, who chooses not share details, said. Today, he’s thriving and playing on his junior high golf team, he said.
“But all those experiences as a patient, or parent of a patient, made me realize why I got into health care,” Spicer said.
The minute he chose the path in college, he knew he wanted to be a hospital CEO, he said, and after his son’s birth, he specifically aspired to head a children’s hospital, he said.
A native Texan, Spicer reached that goal in July 2007, when he became chief executive of Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.
Then, in January 2013, he was named chief executive of OU Medical System. In his new role, he serves as CEO of OU Medical Center and oversees the chief executives of Children’s Hospital and OU Medical Center Edmond.
Spicer, 43, sat down with The Oklahoman on Monday to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in Abilene, Texas, where my parents, who are retired, still live. I have three sisters, who are five, seven and eight years older, and also live in Texas. Our father worked as a senior partner in a large accounting firm and our mother, after I graduated high school, worked as a college English professor. My dad is very, very analytical, organized and deliberate, and mom is very social and going all the time. I feel like I have a good blend of their personalities.
Q: What did you like to do as a kid?
A: Sports. Throughout school, I played about all of them. I had moments of glory as the quarterback on my junior high football team. But by high school, tennis was the only sport in which I was competitive. Today, I try to get out on the golf course at least twice a month. My college roommate, who was a scratch golfer, taught me the game.
Q: Where did you go to college? Did you pursue a career in health from the get-go?
A. Baylor. I’d planned to go to the University of Texas — have been a lifelong fan. But my high school girlfriend was dead-set on Baylor. We broke up in January of my senior year, but by then I was committed. I pledged Phi Delta Theta and served as the fraternity rush chairman for two years and another year as secretary or treasurer. I initially planned to go to law school and maybe into politics.
But all that changed the summer after my junior year. I had an internship lined up in D.C. with Congressman Charles Stenholm, but my dad insisted I not lay around the pool for the five weeks beforehand, but pursue a local internship with our local hospital. I worked on a Children’s Miracle Network telethon and other community relations projects, and loved it. I changed directions and went on to earn my master’s in health administration at Trinity University, where I served as president of the graduate student association.
Except for one B, I made all A’s in grad school, which is funny because I was accepted at Trinity on probation because my undergrad grades weren’t stellar. I had a 3.2 grade point average. Years later, in the spring of 2002 when I was a hospital administrator in Tyler, Texas, I got to sit down again with Charlie Stenholm, who was in his last term. He told me I was making a bigger difference, working in a community hospital, than I’d have ever made in Congress.
Q: What were some of the highlights of your early career?
A: I started out as an assistant administrator for Presbyterian Healthcare System, and, at age 26 or 27, got to oversee a $120 million expansion of the Presbyterian Hospital of Plano, which involved adding an open-heart surgery center and a neonatal intensive care unit.
After six years there, I went on to serve as vice president and chief operating officer for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. When I started, they had only 13 days of local cash on hand, but we significantly improved financial performance over my nearly five years there. Moving from a community hospital to an academic medical center and then to COO (chief operating officer) for OU Medical Center, which has all those pieces, was a natural next step for me in January 2005.
Q: Of which projects here are you proudest?
A: If I come to work every day and pay attention long enough, I’ll see something in which I’ve played a part. The key is to listen, or pay attention, and realize that I’m only part of it; I didn’t do it. But we’ve got a renaissance on campus that mimics the renaissance of our city: The Stephenson Cancer Center, Dean McGee Eye Institute, the OU Physicians building, a surgery center, a new location for Children’s Hospital and an Embassy Suites Hotel being built, to name a few. Investments are being made by multiple parties including the state and HCA (Hospital Corporation of America), which each make up 50 percent of the governing board of OU Medical System. The goal is for every person who needs care in the state to be able to find it here. We’ve made tremendous progress, but we’re not done.
•Position: OU Medical Systems, chief executive.
•Birth date and birthplace: June 26, 1970; Abilene, Texas.
•Family: Amy, an oil and gas contractor and wife of three and half years; son, Hamilton, 15, a freshman at Bishop McGuinness High School; daughter, Mallary, 13, a seventh-grader at Classen School of Advanced Studies; and two female blonde labs, Butterscotch and Cloud.
•Education: Baylor University, bachelor’s in business with a minor in political science; Trinity University, master’s in health administration.
•Latest reads: “Presidential Anecdotes” by Paul F. Boller and spy thrillers by novelist Vince Flynn.
•Travel: Annual guys’ golf trip to Reno, Nev., and California beaches and wine country with wife, Amy.