The corner office: Dr. Stephen Mansfield of Methodist Health System on the swagger and generosity of Dallas

Stephen Mansfield, PhD, has led Dallas-based Methodist Health System as president and CEO since 2006.

Dr. Mansfield's healthcare career technically began in the late 1960s, as he explains below, and he's spent a number of years in executive positions. Before taking on his current role with Methodist, he spent seven years as president and CEO of the five-hospital St. Vincent Health System, based in Little Rock, Ark. Before then, he held a range of administrative positions with Memphis, Tenn.-based Baptist Memorial Health Care System for 23 years.

In addition to his work with Methodist, Dr. Mansfield is an active member of the Dallas community. He is the current chairman of the Dallas Regional Chamber and serves on boards for the Dallas County Community College District Foundation, Dallas Citizens Council and North Texas Commission. He is also a board member for his alma mater, University of Tennessee at Martin.  

Dr. Mansfield, a native of Tennessee, earned his bachelor's degree in healthcare administration from Ottawa (Kan.) University, his MBA from the University of Tennessee at Martin and his PhD in organizational leadership from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.

Here, Dr. Mansfield took the time to answer Becker's Hospital Review's seven questions.
What's one thing that really piqued your interest in healthcare?

I kind of meandered into healthcare. I didn't really pick it per se. My mother worked in the business office in the little hospital in the community I grew up in. She got me to mow the grass in high school, I think because she paid me less than the person they paid before. When I went to college, I worked at that same hospital as a combination admissions clerk/information desk/private branch exchange operator. It was really just a way to make a living. And then I met a very good friend in what was a new profession in the early 1970s called respiratory therapy.

In my hometown, there was not a university for that, so I left and went to community college and got a degree in RT. That I did choose, and I loved being a respiratory therapist. I worked in RT for about 10 years or so, and it was such a new field that right out of college I was able to become director of a department. Then I met a young hospital CEO, not much older than myself, who got me interested in the business side of healthcare. My focus had always been on the clinical side; I loved taking care of patients. But he really made the business side attractive and talked me into going back and getting my MBA. He helped me get first job as a hospital CEO in 1986.

There's nothing I rather do than what I do in healthcare.

What do you enjoy most about Dallas?

Dallas just has an amazing swagger about it. The people here just don't run into an obstacle they don't think they can overcome. Dallas is very welcoming to new people who come into the area. I've only been here eight years and was recently selected chairman of the chamber of commerce. That's unusual in such a large city, but they put you to work right away. In most communities, you need to be there for years for it to feel like home...Dallas felt like home to me and my family immediately.

The other thing: Philanthropically, I can't imagine any community being more giving than Dallas. It's amazing how this community supports very different charitable events and causes, including Methodist. We just completed a $20 million campaign for an emergency critical care tower. It just blows me away — the number of people who gave and size of gifts given.

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

About two years ago, the National Research Council issued a report funded by the Institutes of Medicine and Health. It was a 16-nation longitudinal study to answer this question: Why do Americans spend more money per capita than the rest of the industrial world on healthcare, but our health metrics lag those of other countries?

The answer was not anything to do with what we reformed in healthcare, if you will. The fundamental answer was about the health status of Americans. Shockingly, what they discovered was that the U.S. is either the worst or very near the bottom for most public health measures. The U.S. health disadvantage spans many types of illness and injury.

When compared with the average of peer countries, Americans, as a group, fare worse in at least nine health areas:

1. Infant mortality and low birth weight
2. Injuries and homicides
3. Adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmit¬ted infections
4. HIV and AIDS
5. Drug-related deaths
6. Obesity and diabetes
7. Heart disease
8. Chronic lung disease
9. Disability

If I could fix one thing, it would be that Americans accept personal accountability for their individual health. Most of the nine conditions listed above are autogenic. I think it's a conscious decision that people need to stop smoking, eat less and exercise more. No amount of delivery system reform can offset the impact of our declining health status as Americans.
What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

I'm a decent cyclist and I enjoy gardening. I'm a green thumb kind of guy.
How do you revitalize yourself?

I bike 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year. That's probably the single biggest thing I do for revitalization. If I can get on a bike for an hour outside, the stress flows away. That's my daily relief. We also have a family farm in Tennessee that has a cabin, tractors, four-wheelers and other "boy toys." We spend three to four weeks a year there with all my family. It's a good way to catch up and stay connected and it's a "zero stress zone" for me.
What's one piece of advice you remember most clearly?
"Do more than you're paid to do and you'll be paid more for what you do." My father said that, although — now that I think about it — most of what I did for him, I didn't get paid for at all.

What do you consider your greatest achievement at Methodist Health System so far?

I have a couple that come to mind. I am very proud, that since joining Methodist in 2006, we've almost tripled the size of the company [in terms of net patient revenue]. In 2012, Methodist was named one of the 40 Fastest Growing Healthcare Companies in America [by Modern Healthcare], so that growth has been impressive and very rewarding. We have a great board and wonderful leadership team who've made that happen.

Second thing is Methodist has been selected, year in and year out, by our employees as a best place to work. We've been named each year I've been here, and for 11 years in row, as such by Dallas Business Journal in the large employer category. We've also recently earned "best place to work" distinctions from The Dallas Morning News, Modern Healthcare and Becker's Hospital Review. That is a great honor bestowed on us by our employees.


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