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A Mississippi Business Journal Q&A

Hospital CEO’s hands-on experience paying dividends

Jackson — While working as a hospital pharmacy technician early in his college days, Joe Riley knew he wanted to run a hospital, but his path to healthcare administration featured a fork or two in the road.

Riley’s mentor, an experienced hospital administrator, strongly suggested that he pursue clinical experience as a registered nurse, “working hands-on in all areas of healthcare,” he said, before completing graduate school. A decade later, Riley earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

Riley joined Central Mississippi Medical Center’s (CMMC) parent company, Health Management Associates Inc., where he climbed the ranks from CEO of the 116-bed Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center in Hartsville, S.C., to CEO of the 103-bed Crawford Memorial Hospital in Van Buren, Ark., to COO of the 120-bed Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma in Durant, Okla., and finally to CEO of the 423-bed Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center.

The Mississippi Business Journal caught up with the busy CMMC CEO, who took over the new post a few months ago, and asked him a few questions about his personal and business life, and the challenges of running one of the state’s largest medical facilities.

Mississippi Business Journal: Tell us what experience you gained from working in various hospital departments and taking care of patients?

Joe Riley: The experience … gave me an understanding of the needs of patients, hospital staff and physicians. One of my priorities is to ensure that hospital staff members have what they need to take care of the patients we serve. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can always say yes to all requests. But it does mean we will communicate as a team and come up with creative ways to provide the resources needed to provide the best of care.

MBJ: Patients are top priority. How do you emphasize that message to your staff?

JR: No matter what your job is at CMMC, it is very important not to lose sight of the fact that the only reason we are here is to take care of patients. Taking advantage of advancement opportunities offered by CMMC such as the Clinical Advancement Program and scholarships as well as opportunities offered by the community is also important. Employees (should) strive for excellence as a person and an organization.

MBJ: Tell us your philosophy on having an “open door policy.”

JR: Two-way communication is the key to our success at CMMC. When I am walking through the halls, I want employees to stop me and let me know what is going on: the good and the opportunities we have for improvement. Let’s all make our commitment one of doing better today than we did yesterday.

MBJ: Tell us about your family.

JR: Family is very important to me. My wife, Mary Ann, and I have been married for 20 years and have three children: a daughter, Jordan 16, and two sons, Chad, 12, and Barrett, 9.

MBJ: What are your thoughts on the future of healthcare?

JR: I believe the healthcare service demand is so challenging and all consuming for potential employee candidates that our ability to attract and retain individuals to serve is the biggest hurdle we face today in healthcare.

I have put into play a three-fold plan to overtake these obstacles. My design for becoming the best healthcare provider includes, 1) recruiting the correct compliment of healthcare professionals required to care for the blend of patients CMMC serves; 2) providing them with the resources they need to care for these patients; and 3) encouraging them to be excellent community citizens.

Our ability, as leaders in healthcare, to motivate our team to meet and exceed the ever rising bar of excellence in service by tapping into the heart of those who provide this service is the key to our being recognized as “The Best in Providing Care for the Communities We Serve.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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