The Corner Office: Joel Allison of Baylor Scott & White Health on Finding the Calling

 Joel Allison is CEO of Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health, the largest nonprofit health system in Texas.

 Mr. Allison's career spans 40 years in healthcare management. He joined Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System in 1993, serving as executive vice president and COO before assuming the titles of president and CEO in 2000. The system completed its merger with Temple-based Scott & White in October 2013, resulting in the 43-hospital organization with $8 billion in combined assets. 

Mr. Allison went to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on a football scholarship and earned his a bachelor's degree in journalism and religion. He later attended Trinity University in San Antonio, earning a master's degree in healthcare administration in 1973.

His education did not stop there. Mr. Allison is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and also received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Dallas Baptist University in 2004. He has received numerous awards and distinctions for his leadership, service and contributions to healthcare.  

Joel and his wife Diane have a daughter and two sons. They are also proud grandparents to six.

Here, Mr. Allison took the time to answer Becker's Hospital Review's seven questions.Joel Allison

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

I went to Baylor University with a sense of calling into some type of ministry. I majored in religion and journalism, so I thought perhaps some type of religious journalism. As I was trying to determine God's will, [my wife] Diane's brother, a physician, was doing his residency in family medicine at a hospital in Fort Worth. I was taking a photojournalism class, and decided to do a class project on a day in the life of a resident. I became fascinated with the hospital environment, but I knew I wasn't being called to be a doctor or a nurse.

Later on, after my project, Diane's brother called and said he was going down to Uvalde, Texas, where he was considering joining a group practice. He asked if we'd like to go with him to visit. We were touring the city and the clinic, and they took us to the hospital and its administrative areas, where a new administrator was being introduced. A doctor said, "We have a new administrator. He was going into the ministry, but got his master's in healthcare administration." That's when it dawned on me.

I went back to Waco and called the CEO of Waco Hillcrest Baptist Hospital, Alton Pearson. I said, "Tell me about what you do." It was amazing. He said this was his ministry, the ministry of healing. I was blessed to be accepted to Trinity University's health care administration program. The rest, as they say, is history.

What do you enjoy most about the city of Dallas?

Dallas is a very vibrant, growing city with a can-do attitude. I really enjoy that environment.

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

I would like to provide a way for all people to have access to safe, quality, affordable care.

What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

I love spoiling my six grandchildren and then giving them back to their parents.

How do you revitalize yourself?  

My faith and spending time with my family. I also love to exercise.

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

Always have mentors and advisors in your life, but remember whoever you choose to be your advisor will determine the type of advice you get. So choose wisely.

And one other thing: When I was in Harvard at the Advanced Management Program, the finance professor would come in every morning and write this across the blackboard: "Do not run out of cash." And he wouldn't say anything. A vibrant organization must have cash. For Baylor Scott & White Health this is especially important, because we know with no margin there's no mission.

What do you consider your greatest achievement at Baylor so far?

The fact that I have been allowed to serve a very dynamic, committed, talented team of men and women who truly have a passion for delivering safe, quality and compassionate care.
More Corner Office Q&As:
The Corner Office: Dr. Mike Schatzlein of Saint Thomas Health on Music and Modern Medicine
The Corner Office: Quick Thoughts From Dr. David Bailey of Nemours
The Corner Office: Quick Thoughts From Randy Oostra of ProMedica Health System


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