Corner Office: Why CHLA CEO Paul Viviano feels blessed and how he gives back 


A California native, Paul Viviano's three decades of healthcare leadership have been driven by a calling to support his community however possible. Currently, he's helping drive change in the Los Angeles area as president and CEO of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, a role he has held since 2015. 

Before joining CHLA, Mr. Viviano led the $1.7 billion UC San Diego Health System as CEO and served as associate vice chancellor of UC San Diego Health Sciences. Mr. Viviano has also held chief executive positions at USC University Hospital and USC/Norris Cancer Hospital in Los Angeles, Long Beach (Calif.) Community Hospital and Los Alamitos (Calif.) Medical Center. Mr. Viviano earned a master's in public administration-public health from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is an outdoorsman and a proud father and grandfather.  

Here, Mr. Viviano 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?  

Paul Viviano: I have always held a strong, and perhaps sentimental, view that it is important to help those in need, and a drive to support my community in whatever heartfelt way I can. While I was never attracted to being a clinician myself, I saw the work of doctors, nurses and other healthcare service providers as a vital undertaking. I felt the best thing I could do was to support their efforts in a leadership and managerial role. The healthcare industry by nature is both dynamic and altruistic, and I knew early in my career that I wanted to explore roles that could help guide the growth of healthcare services in a direction of compassion and inclusion.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Los Angeles?

PV: That's easy: It's home. It's beautiful. It's the greatest city in North America. Los Angeles has an unparalleled diversity and spirit of community support that I see every day in all the team members, patients and families who come to our hospital. It's a global hub of culture and creativity, not to mention home of the Dodgers. I could do without the traffic, though. 

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

PV: The challenge that so many deserving people have in accessing healthcare services. I believe healthcare should be available to all and access should be a given. Part of the reason I love working at CHLA is that we are the region's pediatric safety-net provider — we welcome and provide care to all patients, including the most complex cases, regardless of individual circumstances.

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

PV: I love being outdoors, and when I'm not at the hospital you'll often find me enjoying outdoor activities, from hiking to golfing to swimming. But if I were to pick one favorite hobby, it would be sailing. I've been on sailboats since I was a teenager, starting on 8-foot sailboats and working my way up to 16-foot catamarans, Etchells racing sloops and even larger boats. I love the feeling of serenity that comes with being on the water.

Q: How do you revitalize yourself?  

PV: Family time is at the top of the list, spending time with our daughters and grandchildren. As an executive, I'm always on call and available for hospital matters, but I believe it's important for leaders to be able to separate from work at times and focus on family and friends. 

I also enjoy volunteering. I have found one of the best ways to revitalize myself is to do meaningful, gratifying work for others. As board chairman of the California Children's Hospital Association, and chair of the board of trustees at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, I have been able to shift my focus in ways that reinforce my values, while recentering my mind and spirit. I am a lifelong Catholic and count myself extremely fortunate to serve in these capacities. To think somebody could live in LA, be the chair of a prominent, mission-driven Catholic Jesuit university, and be president and CEO of the top-ranked children's hospital in the Western U.S. — it's difficult to imagine how one person could be more blessed, especially given the proximity to our entire family, including four healthy young grandchildren. 

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

PV: Always seek the answer to the question, "What are you going to do?"

This advice came from a former UCLA professor of mine, the great Paul Torrens, MD, who was and still is one of the foremost experts on healthcare policy and management. It comes down to this: You can think about things, you can know about things and you can talk about things, but at the end of the day what matters most is what you do to make a difference. Discussion and debate are important to any process and should never be rushed, but process should not keep you from moving forward with decisive action.

Our job as healthcare leaders is to do exactly that — decide how to allocate resources, which measures will help the most people, when to stay the course and when to change direction. That's one of the reasons that CHLA, over roughly three years, has been able to significantly expand our delivery system through a partnership with AltaMed, one of the largest federally qualified health centers in the country; develop a clinically integrated network of more than 200 neighborhood pediatric affiliates; establish partnerships with several LA County hospitals; and continue expansion of our neighborhood outpatient care centers. We determined it was important to meet families in their own communities and then took concrete steps to reach that goal. 

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at CHLA so far?  

PV: I am proud of the strategic plan we've created at CHLA to reach and care for more children and, in particular, the inclusive process we used to develop it. We took great care to consider the input of team members, faculty, patients, parents, board members, community supporters and a broad spectrum of stakeholders — and the resulting strategies and values reflect that conscientious, comprehensive spirit. A corollary to this is the creation of a new leadership team that has allowed us to progress toward achieving many elements of the strategic plan. 

Through this plan, we established not only our desire to help more children, but also a road map to do so — to train more experts, advance pediatric research and technologies, be an engaged neighbor, grow our footprint, and be an advocate for the voiceless, all while continuing to be the regional pediatric safety-net provider and serving with the same compassion and family-centered care that people have come to expect from us over 118 years. Adopting the strategic plan has literally translated into tens of thousands more children each year receiving the care that they need, and with strong clinical results. CHLA's top-tier clinical specialty rankings reflect the high-performing nature of the hospital along every dimension. Most importantly, our patient outcomes and experience data far surpass national averages. I'm convinced that CHLA can treat children extraordinarily well, in a safe, compassionate space, and I'm proud that others have recognized our mission to create hope and build healthier futures for children as well. 


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