Corner Office: CommonSpirit market CEO Kevin Jenkins on building teams in the hospital and on the basketball court

Since May, Kevin Jenkins has served as CEO of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health's Utah market and CEO of Holy Cross Hospital-Salt Lake. 

Mr. Jenkins was appointed to the role when CommonSpirit named CEOs to lead the five Utah hospitals added to the system earlier this year. 

Before assuming his current role, he held roles including president and CEO of St. Anthony North Health Campus in Westminster, Colo., vice president of operations and interim CEO for St. Anthony North Health Campus, and vice president of ambulatory care for Centennial, Colo.-based Centura Health's Mountains and North Denver Operating Group. Centura has since folded into CommonSpirit. He also held leadership roles at CommonSpirit's CHI Franciscan Health, which has since combined with Tacoma, Wash.-based Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. 

Here, Mr. Jenkins answers Becker's seven Corner Office questions.  

Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What's one thing that really piqued your interest in healthcare?

Kevin Jenkins: One of my first professional mentors was the CEO of a small hospital in a town in southeastern Idaho. I had the opportunity to spend a year observing, learning from this individual, this mentor. And during this process, I quickly learned how much of an impact this hospital had on the community. First, it employed the most individuals in the community. And with that came a responsibility and an ownership of being such a large business in that environment and in that community. The hospital is a facilitator of health and wellness initiatives and had a direct impact with every person, every family, every individual that came through its doors. Even in the most vulnerable times, trusting us with care when they were scared, when they were nervous, when they didn't know what the future would look like. Seeing that, experiencing that at that early stage, I learned and I knew then that working in healthcare was more than a job. It was a calling, and I want to be a part of something so important.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Utah?

KJ: I started the first week of May, and I moved my family over at the end of July. So I haven't had too much time to explore Utah yet. But I would say that I've been very quickly impressed with the many things Utah has to offer. My family and I love the outdoors, and Utah has five national parks, and it's famous for the red rock formations and those incredible hikes you can go on. I'm excited to go experience that and be part of that. Being so close to the mountains, it's easy to ski, snowmobile, hike, camp and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. And it's the closest I've lived to mountains. It's been interesting to experience that firsthand. 

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be? 

KJ: If we can eliminate the problem of access to care for our communities, our patients, our consumers, I would jump on board as quickly as possible. Where every individual has the ability to see an appropriate healthcare provider within a reasonable period of time. Not only being able to see a provider, but being able to see them in a reasonable period of time when it's best for their health and best for their wellness. This is how we as a society in our communities can achieve better health outcomes, can control long-term healthcare costs. Specifically for me, when I think of access to care, I think of four areas, coverage being one of them. I call it the great facilitator. This is your entry in the healthcare system, and making sure that our lives, our patients are covered so they can receive the care they need and then the services. So from screenings to prevention to appropriate care when needed, not just when an emergency happens, but being able to have access throughout that individual's life, as well to promote health and wellness. And then timeliness for me is incredibly important. I've seen way too many times where people have come for care too late. Additionally, having a confident, qualified, capable workforce in our communities to provide the access to care that is needed.

Q: What is your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite? 

KJ: I love to coach sports. I love doing that, building confidence and developing talent in our kids through athletics. For me, it's helping them understand the points of teamwork, being present, preparing and performing at the highest level. Most recently, I've been coaching middle school competitive basketball. That's going to be challenging, but bringing in those points of teamwork and being present and preparing and performing and leveraging the team, for me, is very self fulfilling. 

Q: How do you revitalize yourself?

KJ: My wife and I love to travel. Traveling helps me. It forces me to disconnect from the demands of work and allows me to really focus on something different. Focusing on the beauty of the surroundings of where we go visit allows me to relax, explore, rejuvenate. Specifically, we enjoy trips to the ocean, to the beaches, mountain getaways. We have a large list of places we want to go visit that we haven't yet, that we want to cross off at some point in our lives. It's all about having set time away where I can enjoy what this world has to offer.

Q: What's one piece of advice you remember most clearly?

KJ: I had a mentor once show me that you're only as good as your team. That the most important decision I would make as a leader is who I put on my team. My mentor said, "Don't take it lightly. The right people in your team can help achieve what some would consider impossible." I take that very personally, and it's important to have the right team members to do the work we need to do.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievements at CommonSpirit so far? 

KJ: I've had the opportunity to be part of CommonSpirit now for over 15 years in Washington State and in Colorado and now in Utah. I've had the challenge of building and opening two new hospitals in underserved areas of both Washington and Colorado. It's providing much-needed care in the communities that we serve, integrating the medical staff, hiring staff, building a culture of service and exceptional experience and focus on that quality, focused healthcare, and putting quality and patient safety first. That was exciting and intriguing because I had the opportunity to build from the ground up in two different locations and create what it is the community needs.

In Colorado, I had the opportunity to lead the strategic planning and the design construction and the clinical integration of a network of 14 neighborhood health centers. It was across the front range of Colorado, and so these medical homes provided the much-needed primary care for the communities; urgent, emergent care where needed; key specialty care with support of labs; and imaging and health education. It was truly the continuum of that first encounter of care that those communities needed. I still remember hosting a sports medicine discussion in one of our neighborhood health centers. We had over 40 coaches in the community come and listen to our sports medicine doctors as they learned about concussion protocols and how to manage that at the youth level all the way up to the high school level. And we were able to do that in our neighborhood health center and really serve that purpose of being a true neighborhood health center at a destination where those communities can go to.

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