Integrity rules for L.R. "Rush" Jordan. Without it, he says, everything else is impossible.
"To succeed in any endeavor, one needs complete integrity that cannot be questioned," Jordan says.
Following that come commitment and passion. Throw in a willingness to learn and help your employees learn, and now you're really getting somewhere. As for healthcare administration, his chosen path, Jordan says don't even bother if you lack passion.
This foundation of uncompromised ethics provided Jordan with the clear vision that has typified every affiliation he has had with healthcare systems and learning institutions. From the start of his career in 1955, when he was recruited by Eugene Staid, M.D., to serve as assistant director of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., Jordan has used his personal philosophy to further his public mission of making the hospital, and eventually the integrated health system, a community-based resource.
He was thorough, approaching the task from the inside out, from bottom to top. On his management teams and boards, he included as many healthcare points of view as possible and restructured hierarchies when necessary so that more voices would be heard.
Today, at age 75, Jordan still demonstrates creative zeal and energy. He credits the fluid management style of his first two jobs, at Duke and later as director of teaching hospitals at the University of Florida in Gainesville, with allowing him to experiment and develop different organizational structures and strategies.
In Gainesville, for example, where he created the graduate program in healthcare administration, Jordan recognized that quality nursing is important in providing quality healthcare. He set up one of the first "unit manager" programs, placing a lay administrator on each hospital floor so that nurses could spend more with patients.
Humanistic values. Duane Houtz, president emeritus of Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., worked for Jordan in 1961 at Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville. He says he liked his boss so well that he followed Jordan to his next two appointments as president and chief executive officer of Baptist Medical Centers in Birmingham, Ala., and Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation in New Orleans.
"It's his humanistic values," Houtz says of his desire to work with Jordan. "He was a very strong family man. And he recognized his wife, Jean, as a real asset to his career."
Jordan returned his wife's support when he retired in 1987 as president and CEO of MedAmerica Health Systems in Dayton, Ohio, helping to care for Jean in her struggle with advanced Alzheimer's disease. Jordan's partner of 41 years died in December 1992. The Jordans have three daughters-Jean Hahn, a cardiovascular nurse in Birmingham; Rebecca Welton, who earned an MBA before becoming a homemaker in Germantown, Tenn.; and Judy Benton, a pediatric physical therapist in Anniston, Ala.
Jordan says he can't help but spend a lot of time saying thank you.
"I've been an extremely fortunate individual," he says. "Everywhere I've gone, people have opened doors for me." And Jordan has spent his career trying to do the same for others as a professional mentor, an educator and a community leader.
Home values. Born in Smithfield, N.C., on Oct. 21, 1924, Jordan attributes his sense of societal duty to the influence of his mother and father. Perhaps one of the clearest manifestations of his own care was his role in strengthening community-owned healthcare organizations. Jordan was one of 30 founders of the Voluntary Hospitals of America, now VHA, in the late 1960s. The healthcare systems he administered became models for many other VHA members.
Developing new healthcare leaders has always been important to Jordan. He served as chair of the Accrediting Commission on Education in Health Services Administration. He was also a professor
in healthcare administration programs around the country, and through those programs, he and his colleagues mentored more than 100 residents and fellows.
"Rush Jordan is a model of how health administration executives can build bridges between these two worlds so that students, faculty, practicing executives, health services organizations, and ultimately the communities they serve can reap great benefits," Cynthia Carter Haddock, professor and director of the health administration program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham wrote in a letter nominating Jordan for the hall of fame. Jordan has been on the faculty there since 1988.
Frederick Smith, former CEO and chairman of Huffy Corp., was chairman of the board during Jordan's tenure at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, MedAmerica's flagship hospital. Smith talks about the "fortress mentality" from which Miami Valley was emerging when Jordan arrived in 1978. The hospital could not see past its own needs, Smith says. But Jordan envisioned the hospital as a community resource, and one of his first projects there showed that.
East Dayton was a poor neighborhood less than a mile from the Miami Valley campus, and it had just one doctor for 18,000 people. When he learned about the dire healthcare situation, Jordan was instrumental in building the comprehensive East Dayton Health Center in partnership with the city and county. Today, Smith says, it is a very successful clinic.
Jordan was concerned about governance, placing a great deal of responsibility on the trustees, whose role he deeply respected. Jordan always sought improvement and growth, Smith says.
A board of trustees can be the Achilles heel of a for-profit healthcare system, Jordan says. His strategy for recruiting was to go directly to the corporate leaders in the community and identify the go-getters who cared about the development of the entire community as much as the success of a single organization.
Thomas Breitenbach, president and CEO of Premier Health Partners, the parent company of Miami Valley Hospital and MedAmerica, refers to the Jordan years as a time of extraordinary development for the system.
"(Jordan) established a rigorous business approach to the organization's management, creating a board structure that brought the brightest minds to leading its future," Breitenbach wrote in a letter on Jordan's behalf. "As a result of these efforts, Miami Valley Hospital's community stature, market position and financial security increased considerably."
With Jordan's guidance, Miami Valley was reorganized into MedAmerica, one of the first diversified integrated healthcare systems in the country. His imaginative administrative style resulted in the sale of management contracts and related services to other institutions. Eventually, he helped develop an entirely new corporation that included outpatient facilities, family practice centers, pharmacies and a home healthcare agency. Specialized hospital units were established for critical care, drug and alcohol recovery, sleep disorders, burn treatment and rehabilitation.
Teaching insights. Although Jordan retired more than a decade ago, he continues to teach two days per week at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He also joins a group of about 100 of his former and current students and management colleagues every May in Florida. Known as the L.R. Jordan Management Society, the group was formed 22 years ago to honor Jordan through discussions of his insights and contributions to healthcare.
On a more formal level, in 1987 the university established the L.R. Jordan Endowed Chair in Health Services Administration, one of the first honors of its kind for a healthcare executive. It was funded with donations from many of Jordan's former residents and fellows.
In "retirement," Jordan says he has at last found time to catch up on his reading and to attend the symphony, ballet and theater performances he and his wife always loved.
And he travels, visiting his three daughters and five grandchildren and treating himself to educational tours.
"Continuing education helps us break down our natural resistance to change," Jordan says. "I can't help but be optimistic about the changes of the future."