Todd Caliva, chief executive officer of 131-bed East Houston Regional Medical Center, schedules 17 meetings a quarter with employees of the hospital, including sessions at 1 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
The meetings, particularly the early morning get-togethers with night-shift workers, take a lot of time and effort, but they allow Caliva to further his goal of connecting with those who he believes are the hospital's most important assets.
Caliva, 36, says patients come first at East Houston, but hospital employees are the key to ensuring patients get the best care possible. "I want good people who are engaged" because engaged employees are the ones who can give patients the care they deserve, he says.
And the best way to get them engaged is to get to know the staff and be available to respond to their questions and concerns, he says. "It's a huge time commitment," he says. But "I like to keep them in the loop."
Employees aren't the only target of Caliva's attention. "He is the kind of individual the physicians believe in," says Mara Walsh, president of the Gulf Coast Division of HCA, which owns East Houston Regional. "He naturally has a gift (for) working with people," she says. Caliva can connect with the spectrum of people working in the hospital, knowing the names of housekeepers and doctors, Walsh says.
Caliva has taken a people-first philosophy since his career officially began in 1992 after graduating with a marketing degree from the University of Houston, which he attended on a golf scholarship. "In my 13-year career, I've always focused on people," he says.
His commitment to providing high-quality healthcare was driven in part by the time he spent in hospitals while his mother was ill. While he was a student, Caliva's mother died after spending a lot of time in the hospital, an experience that imprinted upon him the importance of treating patients and their families with attention and dignity, he says.He learned the importance of little things from hospital staff, such as a smiling face. "Nine times out of 10, that's the difference between good and great. The small things," he says.
Caliva's drive and energy also have played a role in his success. "Todd is a hugely competitive individual" and is always thinking of ways to try to improve the hospital, says Jeff Anthony, chief financial officer for HCA's Gulf Coast Division.
Anthony noted that Caliva's approach is used as a role model within HCA for dealing with self-pay patients, who make up a huge chunk of East Houston Regional's patients. "It's a pretty challenging demographic," but the hospital has been able to treat them without threatening the its financial viability, he says.
Caliva has worked in healthcare his entire career and at HCA since 1996, and he expects to stay in the field for a long time. "We actually take care of people's lives every day," he says. "We can't lose sight of that."