Corner Office: Rady Children's CEO Dr. Patrick Frias on embracing service

Patrick Frias, MD, leans on the advice of his former mentor to inform his professional decisions: "The foundation of any good business is service." 

Since 2019, Dr. Frias has served as president and CEO of Rady Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego. 

He said he takes the advice to heart when making decisions that affect patients at the nonprofit, 511-bed pediatric care facility.

Dr. Frias also previously served as COO of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. 

Here, he answers Becker's Hospital Review's seven Corner Office questions.   

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length. 

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

Dr. Patrick Frias: You can trace my interest in healthcare back to childhood. I was born with a condition called ptosis, which causes one of my eyelids to sag. It wasn't a big deal, but I was teased about it as a kid because I looked different. I remember thinking to myself, "If I get teased about such a small thing, I can't imagine what it feels like for a person with significant disabilities." This taught me a lot about empathy and was the spark that drove my desire to help others. Healthcare ended up being a natural fit.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being in San Diego?

PF: The weather, of course! How can you not love 72 degrees and sunny every day? In all seriousness, though, for me it is the collaborative spirit we enjoy in San Diego. Whether it's the philanthropic community, government officials, city and county agencies, or other healthcare systems, we work incredibly well together. This was particularly evident during the pandemic, and we continue to team up for the common good of our community.   

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

PF: One major issue right now is the burnout, stress and strain that healthcare workers are experiencing as they navigate through the ups and downs of the pandemic while continuing to provide an unwavering level of care to patients and families. If I could wave a magic wand and alleviate that burden, that would be huge. I would also eliminate the inequities that are tied to social determinants of health. So many adults and children face higher risks of disease and poorer outcomes simply because of their socioeconomic status, education, employment or access to healthcare. Removing these inequities would go a long way to improving healthcare. 

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

PF: At the risk of sounding cheesy, I would say being a dad. Most of my time outside the office is spent with my family doing things they like to do, whether it's watching or playing sports or just hanging out. My wife and I have four children, ages 23, 21, 19 and 14. The three oldest are boys (although more like young men now) and our youngest is a girl. We've supported them in pursuing their passions and that has resulted in some very different career paths. One of our sons is starting law school, another just took his Medical College Admission Test and the other is joining the Army Reserve with plans to eventually become a federal agent. Our daughter still has a few more years of high school to figure out the path she would like to take. 

Q: How do you revitalize yourself?

PF: Exercise. My wife and I took up spin classes during the pandemic and we've stuck with it. We try to get to the gym about three days a week in the early mornings or on weekends to exercise together. It's a great way to energize and burn off some stress — not to mention a lot of calories! 

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

Early in my career in Atlanta, my mentor Dr. Robert Campbell would say, "The foundation of any good business is service." We were both pediatric cardiologists at the time and we took those words to heart, making service the cornerstone of our clinical practice. I believe those sage words are relevant to what we do at Rady Children's. We are here in the service of the children and families in our community. If we make decisions based on what's best for those we're here to serve, then I think we'll do a pretty good job of driving our business, which, in our case, is the business of caring for kids. 

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at Rady Children's so far?

PF: I'm most proud of the way we, as a team, have navigated through the last few years. We made sure we were serving all our community through COVID — not just kids — with comprehensive testing, tracing and vaccination initiatives. Beyond the pandemic, I'm proud of the way our team came together to improve social justice in our community and amplify diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.   

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