At 34, John Singerling already is the top executive of a 633-bed teaching hospital. He was named executive vice president and chief operating officer of Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, S.C., in January. He is responsible for $1.5 billion in revenue and more than 5,000 employees.
Richland is the largest of three hospitals owned by Palmetto Health, which was created from the merger of Baptist Healthcare Systems of South Carolina and Richland Memorial Hospital.
Singerling worked his way up to his current position in 10 years, beginning in 1996 after earning a graduate degree in health administration at the University of South Carolina.
His first job was as an administrative resident at Baptist Healthcare, where Charles Beaman Jr. -- now president of Palmetto Health -- was CEO at the time. Beaman created the administrative residency slot after meeting with Singerling for 11/2 hours -- a courtesy meeting initiated by Singerling that Beaman's secretary had originally slotted for only 15 minutes, Beaman recalls.
"I saw the potential of a guy who I thought had his head together, was mature for his age and had good knowledge and very good people skills," Beaman says.
That initial impression has proven true in the years since. When Beaman became president of the newly merged Palmetto Health, he brought Singerling along as assistant to the president.
Singerling became vice president of operations for Palmetto Health Richland in September 1999. Singerling's talents really shone in that position, making him the logical choice for promotion in January to the hospital's top spot when his boss, James Lathren, retired from the position.
As vice president of operations, Singerling oversaw the design and construction of an $87.5 million, 124-bed heart hospital, which opened in January on Richland's campus. In addition to the hospital, a large cardiology group built an adjacent, $18 million medical office building through a land lease with Palmetto Health.
He also helped decide to convert a cancer hospital -- a separate building attached to the main hospital -- into a children's hospital. The decision was made because the space at the cancer center was underutilized. The oncologists, who still admit the majority of cancer patients to the hospital, left their office space after they built their own outpatient cancer center.
Singerling, whose responsibilities included the cancer hospital, led a facilities planning process during which the plan for the children's hospital was crafted. After aggressively supporting the plan, Singerling held one-on-one meetings with the oncologists, assuring them that their patients would be well cared for in a newly renovated unit in the main hospital's inpatient tower.
"I believe in having direct communication. For the most part, (the decision) was understood and accepted," Singerling says.