Top 25 Emerging Leaders
Kira Carter, 33
President and CEO, Sparrow Specialty Hospital
When Kira Carter, then chief operating officer, was one of four finalists for the president and chief executive officer position at Sparrow Specialty Hospital in Lansing, Mich., she gave board chairman Robert Hughes advice that showed her boldness and integrity.
“She said to me at one of the audit committee meetings, ‘I don’t think we need a COO position,’ ” Hughes recalls. “She was fully aware … that if she didn’t get the (president and CEO) job, she would be out of work.”
Carter, 33, has led the 36-bed long-term acute-care facility—part of Sparrow Health System—for the past two years, after two years as COO. And that opening has never been filled. “I’ve stepped up in some regards to be that administrator,” she says.
Carter’s career and the administration of Sparrow have been intertwined in another regard. In her earlier role as senior planner for Sparrow Health System, she received an assignment to investigate the feasibility of developing an acute-care facility within the system. “That was originally one of my assignments,” she says. “It became my life.”
When she first became COO, Carter recalls, “There were no policies and procedures in place. There was no equipment. We worked to assemble a leadership team, an administrative and clinical team. We are proudest of … getting our name out in the community. Each year, our clinical results get stronger and stronger.”
Carter has put significant energy into lobbying both externally—when Congress was rethinking the CMS’ policies on acute-care facilities—and internally, persuading physicians to transfer patients to “yet another facility they’ll have to do rounds on,” she says.
Andrea Price, executive vice president and COO of Sparrow Health System, says Carter helped to convince Congress not to apply a rule that would have capped the system from sending more than 25% of its Medicaid patients to Sparrow Specialty and other long-term acute-care hospitals.
During her time at Sparrow Specialty Hospital, Carter figures the facility has received petitions for union campaigns just about every year, and this year 73 service and technical workers, about half the staff, voted to join the United Auto Workers. Carter says she’s just trying to ensure universal policies across union and nonunion staff. “I typically lead by example,” she says. “There aren’t too many things I would ask someone to do that I, myself, haven’t already paved the way, or stepped in, or taken the initiative myself to learn.”
Sonny Ndowu, operations assistant at the hospital, praises Carter for her participatory leadership style. “She lets you know her expectations. She does not micromanage you,” he says. “She does not side with anybody. She listens to all the inputs and then makes the recommendation based on what everybody says.”