St. Vincent CEO Frank Cracolici on leading the first hospital in Los Angeles

Frank Cracolici, RN, didn't take the helm at any old hospital this spring. He's the new president and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center, the first hospital established in Los Angeles.

St. Vincent was established by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in 1856 and is now part of Redwood City, Calif.-based Verity Health System, which operates six hospitals in northern and southern California. With 366 licensed beds and more than 1,300 employees, St. Vincent continues to offer care to the residents of downtown Los Angeles today.

A trained nurse with a background in critical care, Mr. Cracolici began his tenure at St. Vincent on April 4. Prior to his appointment at the medical center, he served as vice president and general manager for the west region of Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, a healthcare supply chain company. He also worked for New York City-based Mount Sinai Health Care System/Continuum Health Partners for 19 years, serving in roles such as president, CEO, executive vice president and COO.

Here Mr. Cracolici talks about his vision for St. Vincent, his leadership style and why he loves working on the provider side.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is one trait of the best boss you ever had?Frank Cracolici

Frank Cracolici: The first thing that comes to my mind is authenticity. One particular individual for whom I had the opportunity to work was an honest character. I never felt I was working for someone other than the person I signed up to work for. I found authenticity an important and influencing characteristic in him. From early on, I admired that he was candid, authentic and true.

Q: How does your nursing background affect your leadership style?

FC: One of the first things clinicians learn is how to be non-judgmental. Recognizing the humanness in individuals is an important lesson. In my mind, nursing helped that. The patient is the center of everything we do [at St. Vincent], and when you have a clinical background, you walk the walk and talk the talk. I've sat with patients who were critically ill or dying, and it helps me humanize everything that happens within the walls of this hospital. [My background has] helped me understand the importance of nursing and where the focus needs to be, and that's around the patient experience.

Q: As you begin your time as president and CEO, what is your vision for St. Vincent Medical Center?

FC: Revitalization. When I took the job, it was very clear what the work in front of me was going to be. Like many other organizations, it's faced difficulties. It's a roller coaster, but my role is to lead it at a local level and support the individuals on the ground. There's an enormous amount of talent on the ground, including strong medical and associate staff, and part of my role is listening to what their needs are. Separate from that, there's the agenda of strengthening our financial stability and operational improvement.

Q: How does St. Vincent's rich history impact your vision for it?

FC: To this day, St. Vincent has a very strong reputation in the clinical community. Prior to relocating to LA, I was talking to people in northern California, who reminded me that it's not only the first hospital [in LA], but it's a fantastic organization with a reputation that's continued through the years.

Reputations like this can be lost over time and get worn. As I set the vision for St. Vincent, it's to remind the community of the rich, rich history the organization has and how much it's contributed to the internal community and the external whole of Los Angeles at large. There's nothing more rewarding than serving an underserved population. I want to remind folks that we're going to continue and build on the good service we've provided.

Q: Thus far, how has your time at St. Vincent differed from your tenures at Cardinal Health and Mount Sinai Health Care/Continuum Health Partners?

FC: My position in New York was not dissimilar to the St. Vincent experience — it was just a much larger scale. When I think of differences, they're hard to define. Interestingly, the culture of the organizations I came to is similar to where I came from. You tend to be drawn to what you're familiar with and what you like.

Cardinal Health was different and was an interesting peek behind the curtain. They, like St. Vincent and Mount Sinai Health Care, devoted a lot of physical capital into their people. That's another common thread I saw between the organizations.

A difference was that I had a chance to sit on the other side of the table. But quite frankly, I missed the provider side. This is not a job to me; it's a vocation. I spent 40 years of my life devoted to patients. Taking a break from it was nice, but ... once you're in the vibrancy of a hospital and used to working with clinicians, it's an energy that's surpassed by very little that I've experienced.

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