For just over a year, Terika Richardson has been CEO at Retreat Doctors' Hospital, a 227-bed HCA facility in Richmond, Va., and the oldest hospital in the city, dating to 1877. It's an acute-care facility, including emergency services, but with a primary service line in urology. Richardson has been working at HCA facilities for 10 years. Before joining Retreat Doctors' Hospital, she was interim CEO and chief operating officer at HCA's Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center in Fredericksburg, Va. Modern Healthcare Managing Editor Harris Meyer recently spoke with Richardson about the unique challenges facing young CEOs, the importance of diversity in healthcare organizations, and the political battle over Medicaid expansion in Virginia. This is an edited transcript.
Modern Healthcare: How did you get into the healthcare business?
Terika Richardson: I always wanted to be in healthcare and in the hospital realm. As an undergrad, I gravitated more toward management and business and toyed at one point with becoming a physician. Then I found the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan and it was a definite game-changer for me because it combined the business and clinical setting that I was looking for. I left Michigan after graduate school and went to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, where I had an administrative fellowship. After I worked there awhile, I came to HCA.
MH: Does HCA have a mentorship program for young executives like you?
Richardson: I had the pleasure of being a part of HCA's chief operating officer development program, and it definitely was a catalyst in my career. When you have those opportunities to work with some of the great thinkers within hospital management and learn from them, it definitely enriches your perspective.
MH: Has it been a little scary to take over in your first CEO position?
Richardson: I didn't feel afraid. It a humbling experience, because you recognize there are hundreds of people who are counting on this organization for their livelihood, and it is humbling to recognize that the decisions I and my team make have an impact on that. I believe in servant leadership, so I am here to support them. I am here to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs well. Anything that stands in their way of providing excellent care, it is my responsibility to remove that barrier.
MH: What have been some of the most interesting unexpected challenges you have faced as a CEO?
Richardson: One of the things I often underestimate is that every hospital has its own unique story. It's the people who make up a facility. Making sure you understand that dynamic and that you understand the culture is so important. It's making sure that when you walk through the door, it is not about your agenda. How do we ensure the legacy of this facility lives on? How do we ensure that the great work being done is understood and appreciated by the community we serve? How do we tell the story and make sure our community understands who we are and what we stand for?