Becker's Speaker Series: 4 questions with HonorHealth CEO Tom Sadvary

Tom Sadvary joined Scottsdale (Ariz.) Shea Medical Center in 1986 and was appointed CEO of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Healthcare in 2005.

During his tenure, he played a key role in the merger of Scottsdale Healthcare and Phoenix-based John C. Lincoln Health Network. After affiliating in 2013 and finalizing their merger in 2014, the organizations unveiled the new name of their Scottsdale, Ariz.-based system — HonorHealth — in 2015. Mr. Sadvary, who was inducted into Scottsdale's History Hall of Fame, has a master's degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh.Sadvary Tom

On Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Mr. Sadvary will speak on a keynote panel at the Becker's Hospital Review 8th Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place April 17 through April 20 in Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and Mr. Sadvary's panel, click here.

Question: Last summer, you announced you'll be retiring this April. What are you most looking forward to in retirement?

Tom Sadvary: I'm looking forward to having a more relaxed schedule both personally and professionally. I'm looking forward to doing more of the things I enjoy and my family enjoys. Any day now, we're going to have a grandson — our first grandchild — born at one of [HonorHealth's] hospitals.* Our daughter was born at the same hospital, which I was running 30 years ago. She was born in March of 1987, and now in January of 2017, she'll be having a son.

Q: What sparked your interest in healthcare?

TS: When I was in college, I was a liberal arts major and was thinking about going to law school. But I decided between my sophomore and junior years that it wasn't a path I wanted to take. One night, my best friend from high school and I went out for a beer. He suggested I spend a day with his father, who ran a hospital in Pittsburgh, where I'm from.

I spent the day with him. I don't remember a single thing about the day, but I remember two things he said to me about his job: "I feel like every day is different and every day I'm making a difference."

Q: What is one of HonorHealth's goals for 2017?

TS: Making sure our quality and operational performance begin to reach national best practices. We're still a relatively new organization, and we've spent a lot of time with integration. Now we are focusing on executing excellent performance, most notably by driving our patient and patient safety performance and metrics.

Q: Who is someone you consider a role model in your life and why?

TS: I've been blessed with several, but the one I'd single out is Stanley Nelson. He was a healthcare executive, and his final position was as CEO of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. Stanley and his wife moved to Scottsdale after he retired. They spent the winters here. He and I would get together for breakfast, lunch or a round of golf, and those sessions were inspiring and educational for me.

Early in my tenure as CEO, the recession hit. I had breakfast with Stanley and was talking about how the recession was affecting Arizona. He quietly looked at me and said, "All your complaints are legitimate, but this is your watch. Someday you'll be looking back at your career and people will say, 'What did you do to make things better?'"

I went home, looked myself in the mirror and said, "I'm either going to be inspired by challenges or I'm going to get out." Not only was I going to be inspired, but I was going to find a way to inspire my team to help meet challenges and make sure we were going to be a successful organization.

The other thing about Stanley is he was a pioneer in healthcare. Thirty years ago, he was a proponent of IT and how information technology can integrate disparate parts of healthcare. He was a person who would take his time and truly think about things.

*This comment was made during an interview on Jan. 25.

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