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I wish to thank Susan Sciullo for the referral to Tatum that changed my career and my life. I had known Susan for a long time. Much of our earlier interaction occurred while she was the CFO of Dekalb Medical Center in Atlanta. As is the all too frequent case, Susan was forced into a transition. During her hiatus, I recommended that she consider Tatum and I introduced her to Rich D’Amaro, the firm’s CEO at the time. Susan was hired and immediately engaged on a gig at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta that lasted several years. A couple of years down the track, I was transitioning myself and I got a call from Susan. She went on to tell me how positive her experience with Tatum had been and referred me to Bishop Leatherberry.
On April 9, 2007, I became a Partner of Tatum, LLC in its Atlanta Office. At the time, Tatum had the largest interim executive financial consultancy in the US with offices all over the country. Bishop Leatherberry, the Managing Partner of the healthcare practice in Atlanta made the decision, commitment and took a chance on bringing me into the practice. I will always be indebted to Bishop and Tatum for being the catalysts in helping me find my ultimate calling. Bishop is currently the Regional Director, Business Development for BDO in Atlanta.
Bishop told me that, “The toughest gig was the first one.” That proved to be true. Tatum had nearly 1,000 Partners in their healthcare practice across the country and could not give work away in GA. Tatum’s remuneration model was a fee split. A Partner had the potential to generate handsome pay but had to be doing billable work. Otherwise, you worked on finding work on your own time and dime. Had I not had some unrelated consulting deals going, I would have become very hungry in the months that passed before I got my first fully professional big league gig.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Linda Klute. At the time, Linda was based in Chicago and ran Tatum’s healthcare business development operation. At any given time, Linda would have over 100 gigs running where she had placed Tatum interim executives. In 2008, Linda got a call from Bill Glatch, the Director of Business Development for the Tatum Texas practice about a need to assist with a commercial loan restructuring in a multi-specialty physician practice based in Lubbock, TX. Everyone in the Texas practice was engaged and Bill was reaching out to Linda for assistance. Linda considered the resources available to her that included me. After she and Bishop considered their options, I got the call that launched my full-time professional consulting practice.
Dr. Randy Hickle, the inventor of the blanket warmer and other things that have improved healthcare is the founder of the Grace Clinic in Lubbock, TX. I traveled to Lubbock to meet Dr. Hickle and I was hired on the spot. A week or so later, I arrived in Lubbock with my fifth wheel trailer to do what was supposed to take a month or so. Seven months later, I completed my first Interim Executive Engagement and the Grace Clinic was set on a path that led to many years of success. This is where I learned that gigs rarely last the initially expected time. Things are rarely what they appear to be at first and the only thing you can be certain of is that you can’t be certain of anything on an interim engagement. I have been blessed by my continuing friendship with Dr. Hickle. It was his recommendation that had a lot to do with me being accepted into one of the country’s finest healthcare administration doctoral programs.
Bishop Leatherberry was right. The first gig is the hardest. Since then, work has flowed constantly and Tatum and I went our separate ways when I was recruited to do a gig in FL as a free agent. Tatum has been acquired twice since those days and the firm that is now a division of Randstad is very different than it used to be. I am friends with Joe Zuyus the current healthcare leader of the firm and I have used Tatum resources.
I came home one weekend during a consulting engagement to find a brochure from The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) that I had received because of my Fellowship in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). The program tagline is, “Evidence-based leadership in healthcare administration.” I was captivated because I was living the difference between the evidence-based clinical practice of medicine and the Magic 8 ball to Ouija Board practice of healthcare administration in distressed facilities. I will never be able to thank Dr. Robert Hernandez and his faculty at UAB for taking a chance on me by admitting me to UAB’s Doctorate of Science in Health Services Administration program. That program resulted in incredible enhancement of my capabilities to serve healthcare organizations. No one gets through a doctoral program without a lot of support, guidance, assistance with bureaucracy, logistics and sometimes a kick in the ass. I don’t know where UAB would be without Leandra Celaya the program’s Director of Operations. It is Leandra’s calm demeanor and steady hand that has kept me and many of my peers from throwing the towel in while keeping the faculty wound up and pointed in the right direction.
When it came time to enter the dissertation phase of the doctoral program, I owe more thanks than I can express. First, it was Dr. Hernandez that worked patiently with me on the selection of a research topic, a process much more complex and difficult than you might expect. I wanted to study interim executive services and learned that this had never been done before. None of the efforts to talk me out of going into uncharted territory were successful and I paid dearly for not taking an easier way out before the process was complete. You do a dissertation under the guidance and direction of a dissertation committee. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Amy Landry for charing my dissertation committee. I have joked with Dr. Landry about what she did to cause UAB to punish her by compelling her to agree to chair my dissertation but I was deeply blessed and will be forever indebted to Dr. Landry for her support, guidance, and encouragement. Dr. Hernandez volunteered to serve on my dissertation committee along with Dr. Stephen O’Connor and Dr. Jeff Szychowski from UAB’s School of Public Health. I owe Dr. Szychowski a debt of gratitude for the incredible amount of analytical and methods support that I needed to do my research. It is not hard to see why and how UAB is one of the best healthcare administration programs in the country after an experience with UAB and its incredible faculty.
Susan Sciullo opened a door for me to get an engagement at Columbia / St. Mary’s Health System in Milwaukee, WI. to do a financial plan. While there, I met Brian Regan, the system CFO. After getting off to a rough start, Brian and I bonded and the engagement was a big success for the hospital. This was the beginning of my experience with Ascension Health, the country’s largest faith-based health system, and the largest not-for-profit health system. I am indebted to Ascension for the opportunities I had to work in multiple hospitals and their corporate offices in St. Louis.
Brian left Ascenscion in Milwaukee to found H5 Consulting. The two of us have worked together on a number of engagements. He has hired me, I have hired him and we have worked together as peers. No one in my career has been a more patient and effective mentor while also becoming one of my best friends. Everyone that has ever had the experience of working with Brian Regan is better for the experience.
I would like to thank every decision maker in every healthcare organization that has ever provided me with the opportunity to serve their organization and community. I do not believe that these things happen by chance and I have been honored, humbled and blessed by the opportunities that have resulted by the paths of people that did not know each other being on intersecting trajectories. Thousands of patients are being better served as a result of the interventions that occurred in their communities. Most of them never knew that I had been in their town.
Only the very few people that are privileged to work with the voluntary trustees of community hospitals are in a position to see the dedication, commitment and time that is given in the service of their community and their hospital. My life has been blessed by the privilege of working with these people and I am honored that they placed their trust in me to work with them to help make their community hospitals better for the patients that depend upon them.
I must thank the staff of every organization I have served. I facilitate a process for them to work with me to make their organization better. They are the ones that get the information, do the work, come up with a lot of the ideas and inspire their peers to ‘get on the bus.’ Without them, no interim engagement has a prayer of a chance of success.
Who else to thank? Any list of this nature is dangerous because of the risk that someone important is going to be overlooked. If my case is like yours, there are too many people to thank for the opening of doors, opportunities, risks taken and commitment bestowed that have made us the success we are. None of this is as a result of luck or chance. It is a direct result of networking and hard work in the school of hard knocks that have led to my growing experience and potential relevance as an interim executive. If you know anyone I may have overlooked, please let me know.