Tampa General CEO John Couris: Once a learner, always a learner

A little over a week ago, I defended my dissertation. In December, I will graduate with a doctorate in business administration with a focus in management sciences from the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida. While I am tremendously proud of what I have achieved, my purpose in sharing this is to inspire others to continue pursuing their passions. Learning is a lifelong journey and should be a process for everyone. 

For me, striving to be an authentic leader — one who deploys kindness, transparency and vulnerability — as a practice to develop my team and produce the best possible results has been a passion of mine throughout my career. Transparently, it did take me some time to get to this point.

I was fortunate to have advanced to leadership positions early on in my career, and while I was always results-oriented, I was not always mindful of the process of how to get there. Very simply, I was young, immature and have come a long way since then. I have learned how important it is to achieve results and bring your teams along throughout the process in an authentic way. So, fast forward years later, the opportunity presented itself to understand the science behind my passion, and I jumped at the chance to begin my doctoral journey.

Over the past three years, I have been able to meld my on-the-job experiences with the academic rigor of managerial science. I have read countless case studies and research articles, had the opportunity to write studies of my own, worked with fellow students and learned from some of the best in the business. As a result, I now understand in new and tangible ways how various modes of leadership can inspire both leaders and followers and dramatically change outcomes in healthcare and all types of industries.  

The time I spent in the classroom, learning and working on my dissertation, has been some of the most rewarding of my life. It also provided me with a positive and constructive outlet, especially over the last challenging 19 months. When you see your passion and your interest made clear and understand its value, there is nothing more rewarding.

Healthcare, like most industries, is changing at lightning speed. To keep up, innovate and provide the best outcomes for our patients and my team, you must remain curious, constantly questioning, seeking knowledge and remaining agile and responsive. The drive to learn has directly correlated with my ability to improvise and pivot as and when needed. It certainly proved an invaluable skill over the last 19 months.

Most importantly, actively learning inspires others to learn. In my role, it is incumbent on me to lead by example, and there is no more important arena in which to lead than in continuing education. Therefore, I have taken my passion for learning and shared it with my team. The manifestation of my desire to promote and support my team's learning is Tampa General's People Development Institute (PDI).

The PDI is a collaboration between Tampa General and the University of South Florida (USF) Muma College of Business. As a first of its kind in the country, this educational program offers a variety of free courses to all our team members. Regardless of their current position and career trajectory, it will allow us to continue to enrich our team members' professional growth.

Our goal through establishing PDI is to offer career advancement and ongoing opportunities for our team members and provide them with the resources they need to be as successful as possible. PDI does just that. Our course goals include:

  • Advancing safety
  • Patient outcomes
  • Quality
  • Engagement
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork

To ensure that we provide a world-class learning experience, we are leveraging the USF Muma College of Business expertise. Courses are being led by a combination of facilitators from USF and TGH and offered in a variety of formats, including hybrid and face-to-face instruction. 

The learning opportunities available through PDI are in large part thanks to the support of the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. Through a generous donation, it has invested in the most valuable asset we have — our people. This is crucial because if we want to continue to evolve our culture and expect our teams to behave and perform a certain way, we need to develop and train them accordingly. 

Professional and personal development is critical, which is why TGH will cover not only the cost of the tuition for team members but also all training materials required for courses. 

But the benefits of lifelong learning extend beyond professional development. As I like to remind my team, there are emotional benefits to continuing one's education:

  • Keeps you sharp, active and engaged
  • Provides a sense of fulfillment and purpose 
  • Stimulates your overall mental health

With my doctorate in hand, I want to take a moment to thank the members of my Board of Directors for their unwavering support. Without their support and that of my wife and children, these past three years of personal growth and development would not have been possible.

That being said, I am not done learning. In fact, it has made me thirstier than ever to learn as much as I can and to inspire others to do the same. It is a big, big world out there, and it is never too late to learn all you can.

John Couris is the President and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. You can follow him on LinkedIn and read more of his work on leadership on his website, Leading the Change

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