Top 25 Emerging Leaders
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer,
When Sean Tinney first began college as a freshman at Auburn University, he thought about entering the healthcare field, but as a physician, not an administrator. Then somewhere between an anatomy course—“I thought maybe this is not for me”—and the realization that he enjoyed business, Tinney decided a major in healthcare administration might be the better career path.
After graduation, Tinney enrolled in a master's degree program for health administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, during which he also completed a nine-month administrative residency program with Eastern Health System, also in Birmingham. That experience helped lead to his first full-time job at Medical Center Blount, one of Eastern's facilities, where Tinney served as vice president of professional services.
“I started out my career in a small hospital, so I got to know every facet of the organization,” Tinney says of the 40-bed community hospital. “It prepared me for the larger organizations I'm at now.”
Tinney, 37, is now senior vice president and chief operating officer of Medical West, an affiliate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System. But before joining Medical West last month, Tinney had spent more than a decade in administrative roles at other hospitals in Alabama, where he learned to make the most of relationships and resources.
For his accomplishments, Tinney won a place in Modern Healthcare's 2013 class of Up and Comers.
“In our business, relationships are key,” he says. “Working in the smaller, more rural areas, you can appreciate how important boards are, how important physicians are, how important it is to provide care from a patient satisfaction and quality standpoint.”
Developing strong relationships was especially critical during his tenure as president of rural hospital operations for St. Vincent's Health System, the result of a 2007 merger with Eastern Health. “We didn't have much capital as a system,” Tinney says. But under Tinney's leadership, St. Vincent's Blount in Oneonta, Ala., worked with the Blount County Healthcare Authority to secure a $450,000 donation used to buy medical equipment.
Finding the resources wasn't an easy feat, but that's what Tinney prefers. “So far, every place I've been has been a challenge,” he says.
It's a big part of why he's found himself in these roles. Tinney briefly left hospital administration to work for healthcare technology company MedMined from 2005 to 2007. During that time, he visited more than 50 hospitals nationwide to present data to executives on the financial impact of hospital-acquired infections. But Tinney says he missed the challenge of implementing the changes that would then follow.
“Meeting with those executives and hospitals across the country made me have the appetite to get back into it,” he says.
That drive hasn't gone unrecognized, says Keith Pennington, president and CEO of Medical West. “He's ambitious, and when you're in a facility that's growing and expanding, you need somebody like that,” Pennington says, pointing to Medical West's plans for the construction of a free-standing emergency department and a multimillion-dollar interior renovation.