Corner Office: Transforming a hospital takes community effort, Prime Healthcare regional CEO Saju George says

Since the beginning of his healthcare career, Saju George has been devoted to making a difference in the lives of others. He continues to exercise this dedication as a regional CEO overseeing Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare's Michigan hospitals and medical groups.

Mr. George became CEO of Garden City (Mich.) Hospital in 2015, before being promoted to regional CEO in 2018. He oversees both Garden City Hospital and Lake Huron Medical Center in Port Huron, Mich.    

Before coming to Garden City Hospital, Mr. George held leadership roles with Ascension St. Joseph Hospital in Tawas City, Mich. He has a bachelor's degree in physical therapy and an MBA in healthcare administration from Michigan-based Baker College of Business. He completed executive leadership formation training for healthcare leadership from Aquinas Institution of Theology in St. Louis. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and serves on various boards, including the American Hospital Association's Regional Policy Board.

Here, Mr. George answers Becker's Corner Office questions: 

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

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

Saju George: The opportunity to make a meaningful difference in people's lives, especially during difficult times. My exposure to family members who struggled with some healthcare experience is what inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare as a physical therapist. I practiced as a clinician for many years. My passion grew as I learned more about the industry and how we all come together to better care for the patients.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Michigan?

SG: I've lived a majority of my adult life in Michigan. My family and I very much enjoy the four seasons, the lakes, access to skiing, cycling trails, so it felt natural to be here, and we fell in love. Lately I've learned to know and love Detroit. The city is rich in history, innovation and colorful cultural fabric, and it's so exciting to be part of it.

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

SG: Remove the disparities in access and [insurance] coverage, and to lend itself to coverage that is easy to access and simple to navigate, and costs that are transparent and for delivering care that is convenient and coordinated. That is my wish list. The ultimate hope for our industry is not to be known for being challenging to navigate and hard to understand, causing frustrations for patients and doctors, but to hopefully be known for simplicity, cost effectiveness, service excellence and ease of navigation.

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

SG: Being collaborative and bringing people together. I like to find mutually beneficial solutions for common good.

Q: How do you revitalize yourself? 

SG: My faith and my family revitalize me. I invest as much time as possible toward it. Likewise, I enjoy doing things like gardening and exercising. It's something I like doing, and it's truly therapeutic for me to clear my mind.

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

SG: View all challenges as opportunities. I strongly believe after going through my journey that most lessons to be learned will come from opportunities we create and experiences we have. We face both positive and challenging situations, and these experiences will be the key in shaping and developing who we are as a person and as a leader.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at Garden City and Lake Huron so far?  

SG: Relationships I have developed with the people and the community, whether it's the patients, physicians, colleagues, community members, and the way we collectively transformed the [Garden City] hospital from survival to a thriving mode with many local and national recognitions like the [IBM Watson] "100 Top Hospital" [award]. Healthcare is a team sport, and we need a lot of players working and moving together.


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