The Corner Office: Ruth Brinkley of KentuckyOne on Human Connections

Ruth Brinkley, president and CEO of Louisville-based KentuckyOne Health, discusses the most memorable piece of advice she's received, the person who helped her pursue a career in healthcare and the problem she'd most like to solve first.

Ruth Brinkley has served as president and CEO of Louisville-based KentuckyOne Health since January 2012. Ms. Brinkley has described her leadership style as one centered around relationships, an approach that has greatly helped her in the past couple of years as she oversaw the merger of distinct hospitals and religious heritages.

KentuckyOne Health was established that year from the merger of Louisville-based Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare and Lexington, Ky.-based Saint Joseph Health System. The system also formed a partnership with the University of Louisville Hospital and its affiliated James Graham Brown Cancer Center in late 2012.

Prior to her work with KentuckyOne, Ms. Brinkley served as president and CEO of Tucson, Ariz.-based Carondelet Health Network for four years and as president and CEO of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Memorial Health Care System for five years. Ms. Brinkley also spent a portion of her career as senior vice president for performance management with Catholic Health Initiatives. Today, she is senior vice president of operations for Denver-based CHI, KentuckyOne's parent organization.

Ms. Brinkley calls Girard, Ga., her hometown. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from DePaul University in Chicago, and today she serves on DePaul's board — one of her several civic commitments. She is also a founding member of the Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, and she's received the UnBought and UnBossed Award from Girls, Inc., which recognizes women who have had a significant impact on improving the lives of girls and other women.  

Ms. Brinkley has a son named Bruce and daughter named Aisha, along with two grandchildren.  

Here, Ms. Brinkley took the time to answer Becker's Hospital Review's seven questions.

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

I was raised by a grandmother who was a strong woman, wife and educator. She insisted that "her girls" would be educated, independent and capable of supporting themselves financially. Going to college and having a career were never questions in my mind. She thought I should be a nurse, which eventually led me to my career in healthcare.
What do you enjoy most about Louisville?

The friendliness of the people and the city's lively downtown, including its award-winning Waterfront Park, theaters and restaurants.
If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be?

Access to care. I believe everyone deserves access to quality, compassionate care. I grew up in rural Georgia and I knew people who died because they did not have proper access to healthcare. It's our mission to bring wellness, healing and hope to all, including the underserved. We have to be innovative to reach those who need us most through programs like virtual care and telemedicine.
What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

One of my greatest talents is the ability to connect with people in an honest, transparent and personal level, irrespective of their backgrounds, socioeconomic status or belief systems. In almost all cases, I can usually find a way to engage most people in a meaningful conversation and break down barriers to communications.  
How do you revitalize yourself?

I like to travel, and I enjoy the arts. I like to go to the symphony, plays, concerts and movies.
What's one piece of advice you remember most clearly?

Don't be afraid to take risks and say "yes" when someone asks you to do something you haven't done before.
What do you consider your greatest achievement at KentuckyOne so far?

Bringing the three organizations together, establishing KentuckyOne's mission and developing or expanding programs to improve the health status of Kentuckians, especially those in rural communities where access to care has been limited.


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