[by Phyllis Shaikun]
After talking with David Laird, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare’s new President/CEO, it seems apparent the organization has found a leader with the ability to delegate, inspire and, more than likely, receive only the best from those with whom he interacts. His management style is a participatory one – be sure everyone shares the same goals, agree where the organization is going and then get to that point as efficiently as possible. He views his role as providing direction and resources to managers along with the support and nurturing they need to get the job done – and holding them accountable.
“You have to understand the goals,” he says, “and stay objective and non-judgmental. I feel what I do makes it possible for others to do their jobs.”
He believes how you get there is less important than the result. “The goal is not to make money,” he concludes, “but rather to provide compassionate care, which in turn leads to additional resources and encourages even more business.” Over the next 18 months or so, through the transition period until the planned merger between JHSMH, the University of Louisville and Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) becomes a reality, Laird’s true impact will surely be felt. It should be an interesting ride.
On a one-on-one basis, Laird, the former senior vice president of strategy and business development for the organization since 2008, exudes an air of confidence that lets you know everything is under control. Born in Louisville, he spent his formative years in Austin, TX, and completed his freshman year at the University of Texas before moving to Bowling Green, where his dad was a psychology professor at Western Kentucky University. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WKU and a master’s in hospital administration from St. Louis University, Laird joined Humana as a hospital administrator and stayed with the company until 1992.
He spent a year in Hobbs, NM, learning his trade and another two years at Texas’ Bryan Hospital before moving to Europe and eventually becoming vice president of European Operations for Humana. His job description ultimately included responsibility for hospitals in England, Switzerland and Spain.
“It was a great opportunity for my family,” he says. During that stint, he created an international cardiac surgery program, contracted with cardiology centers in Germany, developed the first stand-alone outpatient surgery center in Europe and grew Humana’s assets 100 times over their initial investment.
Upon the family’s return to America in 1984, Laird climbed the corporate ladder from executive director of Humana Hospital-Suburban to president of Humana Hospital-University and eventually to senior vice presidencies in administration, marketing and sales. He left Humana in 1992 and dabbled in four very successful entrepreneurial ventures before joining Norton Healthcare as a senior vice president in 1998.
Why leave a successful business career for the non-profit world? “It’s simple,” he says. “I came back to hospital administration because I would rather help people than do anything else.”
By 2006, Laird’s business and healthcare alliances joined forces when he co-founded Faulkner Healthcare Real Estate that owned and managed medical office buildings with properties that grew to a million square feet. Two years later, the challenge of helping another healthcare giant, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary HealthCare, once again drew Laird back to the downtown medical center to lead JHSMH’s strategic development team.
“I am excited about the future,” says the new CEO. “A merger with the university has been discussed for decades, but the question was how to make it economically feasible. Now with CHI on board, along with its solid infrastructure, IT, strategies and platforms, we can make it happen. He assumes the new company that is being created by CHI, JHSMH and UofL will be introduced in about 18 months.
So why is he still working? “I like the social interaction,” Laird responds, “and what could be more positive than healthcare. I just like helping.” He admits he has never applied for a job – and has held some wonderful positions where he has been judged on what he has done.
He currently sits on the board of Passport and has chaired the board of Kentucky Country Day School. He also served on the boards of the Red Cross, the Federation of American Hospitals, Healthcare International and the Harvard Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland. He has served on the advisory boards of WKU’s College of Education and Health Sciences and mentored and developed the university’s program for gifted children.
With such a hectic schedule ahead of him, Laird still looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Nancy, whom he calls a life-long and very accomplished volunteer, and his sons, Richard, Christian and Stephen, and grandchildren, Khaliuna, Lukas and Lachlan. In the meantime, he hacks at golf and can frequently be found clearing brush off of the property he and Nancy purchased several years ago.