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Decade Interview with Stan Hupfeld '71

Stan Hupfeld

stanley.hupfeld [at] integrisok.com

City, State: Oklahoma City, OK

HCAD Class Year: Master's of Science in Health Care Administration 1971, B.S. in History UT Austin 1966

Please tell us a bit about your career path. What is your current job title and employer? How long have you held this position and what does it entail?

I served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of INTEGRIS Health, Oklahoma’s largest health system, for 15 years which included managing 13 hospitals in Oklahoma, 1,600 beds and annual net revenues approaching $2 billion. 

In 2010, I transitioned to the role of Chairman of the INTEGRIS Family of Foundations and am now Senior Consultant for INTEGRIS Health. I also travel the country speaking on health reform and in fact, just recently spoke to the Trinity University graduate students as an adjunct visiting professor.

I recently wrote a book called Political Malpractice – How the Politicians Made a Mess of Health Reform, and am called in as a frequent guest on broadcast and cable news outlets to discuss health care issues.

My career really got underway immediately following my Trinity residency at Providence Hospital in El Paso when I was appointed assistant administrator. I moved on to the Chief Executive Officer position of St. Joseph Hospital, which has since closed, but by the age of 27 I was CEO of a hospital. 

Throughout it all, I’ve been proud to serve in the medical profession. When one sees a blue sign with a white “H” on the highway, it is recognized as one of the most powerful symbols in America—a place of refuge and safety. We’ve seen for a long time how people go to their community hospital during disasters, such as tornadoes or flooding. No one tells them to, they just do and it is such an interesting phenomenon. That’s my way of saying that I am proud to be in a profession that makes a difference in people’s lives. We are at the core of what life is all about and we touch lives during their most intimate moments—a nurse holding the hand of a patient going in to surgery or a doctor advising patients to get their affairs in order. 

Why did you select Trinity's HCAD program? 

Well, I entered the program as soon as I returned from serving as a battalion surgeon’s assistant in Vietnam. I learned, while in country, that I was responsible for my team of medics - they were the guys that went into the field with a cross on their chests and no gun. It wasn’t long before I determined that if I did my job well, then I made the medics’ jobs better. That was when I decided to pursue this for a career and began investigating programs.

I selected Trinity because it was in Texas and close to Dallas which is my home. Also, the residency Trinity offered was a critical factor. There is no question that the residency is the heart and soul of the Health Care Administration program and it was certainly my inspiration to select Trinity. The graduates have such a head start over people out of a standard two-year academic program.

In the past, I’ve been invited to lecture at Texas A&M in College Station. They are really bright kids, but Trinity has such an advantage over really good programs like that because of their residency.  

Did Health Care Administration end up being what you thought it would be when you were a graduate student? 

My class was heavily seeded with Vietnam veterans, so it was a fairly old class. Most were men—it was the ‘70’s, after all—and today more than half of the students in the Trinity program are women. We had two women and they were both nuns!

I’m not really sure what I expected but I knew from my military experience what I wanted to do with my particular skillset. So, I was enthusiastic and some of my best friends in this world were made during that graduate program. 

My residency was a great experience. You learn as much about what not to do, as much as what to do.

It’s been a great ride for me and it’s turned out better than I could have expected, when I think about what it was like 40 years ago.  

What benefits and opportunities have you experienced in your career as a graduate of the HCAD Program? 

Here’s a little history: when I got off that transport plane in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, I was 22 and listening to Christmas carols while watching personnel load body bags onto a plane. The juxtaposition of the carols and what I watched was very striking. I applied to Trinity while I was in Vietnam. I filled out my application in a dirt hut and it was smudged with dirt. I’m surprised they accepted it! I got out of the service a month early to start the Trinity program.

This program launched an incredibly interesting career. I went to UT on a football scholarship for my undergraduate work and was a member of the 1964 national championship team. I was a scrub but played with the team and I have the ring! 

So, I had the chance to play college ball, went to NAM, got my degree at Trinity and got to run big organizations beginning with the hospital in El Paso where I did my residency for Trinity. I’ve been very, very blessed.

In terms of your career, what are the accomplishments you are most proud of? 

These are big businesses and very complex, so it takes energy to keep this big ship moving. At its core we do things that no one else does and that is touching people's lives when they are most vulnerable and helping them through difficult times. 

Plus, working as the president of such a large health care organization gave me the opportunity to get very involved in the community. My position allowed me to do many diverse things and that is so important because it goes toward establishing a healthier community overall. 

I’m proud to have held many positions within the communities of Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. I’m a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Hospital Association and served as Chairman of the AHA’s Regional Policy Board. My position allowed me to do things such as Health Care Systems delegate on the Section for Metropolitan Hospitals Governing Council; Board Chairman of the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care; and Campaign Chairman and Chairman of the Board of the United Way in both Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. I served on the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and am a trustee on numerous other boards and commissions in Oklahoma. 

Finally, when we as community leaders took over the lowest performing school in Oklahoma City with a 100% poverty rate, we managed to turn it around. It became a charter school which meant we were responsible for the operation of the school. It’s become a real gem and when I retired, they named the school after me—the Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village. That is such an honor. External to our facility, that’s my greatest accomplishment.

Specific to the health care system, I helped put together the organization that became INTEGRIS Health, the largest provider of services in Oklahoma. That happened on my watch. At our largest facility, we started transplant programs, artificial heart programs, and expanded to include facilities all over the state. 

This is a very demanding profession. How did you stay motivated during the toughest times of your career? 

It starts with being blessed. My wife and I have been married for 46 years and we have great kids and grandkids. That part of my life is so very fortunate. 

My career has gone very well. I’ve had three jobs, all with increasing responsibility. Being the boss is better than not being the boss! I’ve enjoyed the difference I’ve made within my communities. We ran the organization with the principle that what we do is serious, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously. We put on shows for the employees all over the state where we’d sing and dance and have great fun. The employees loved it!  There’s been nothing about my career that hasn’t been positive. 

How has the industry changed from when you first entered the health care administration field until now? 

The basics are exactly the same. It takes special people and a very strong organization behind those workers to do an even better job.

From your perspective, how different is health care going to look in 15 years? 

I believe there is going to be a tremendous consolidation with as few as 15 major health care systems governing every single hospital.

The risk of running hospitals these days is so great and the financial and intellectual capital so tremendous, that it’s very difficult to survive as a stand-alone hospital.

That will mean there will be fewer independent doctors - they’ll be employees of a health care system. It’s also very feasible that we will have evolved into a single payer system. Once we’re on this road, there’s no going back. The Affordable Care Act was a stake in the ground, just like Medicare was. There is simply no going back from those momentous life-changing events.

What advice would you share with individuals considering pursuing a master's in Health Care Administration in Trinity's HCAD Program? 

Number one, if you have the choice, then Trinity University is the superior option. There are now only one or two others with a year-long residency. What I’ve told my residents is that you don’t get your degree until you pass my course. If you want to do this as a career and can get into Trinity, then clearly you have no better option.

Number two, if you want to make a difference in this world and truly touch people at their core, this is a great profession to be in.

I worked with at least 35 Trinity Health Care Administration residents at INTEGRIS. They’re above the rest of the competition who all have a master’s degree, but no residency experience. A Trinity resident drops in right over their heads, getting the opportunity to do things like shadow the CEO, go to board meetings and get a first-hand look at how policy is made. They experience everything, carrying a beeper just like the doctors, and getting on planes with doctors to head to another city, taking a heart out of a deceased person and bringing it back for transplant. 

You get an experience right out of graduate school that most don’t get until they become a CEO. How cool is that? How many people get to watch that happen?

What advice would you share with current HCAD students and residents? 

The residency program should be the best year of your life. You can get good coursework at another university. You’re paying more money because of the residency. That is an overwhelming advantage and a once in a lifetime opportunity. You’re going to get to do things you’ll never do again unless you become a CEO. So many students would want to trade places with you right now and you’re just sort of being given that, by virtue of being a Trinity student.

We had 500 -1,000 people with master’s degrees at INTEGRIS and what a great advantage the Trinity residents had over all those people.  

What book(s) or other resources have you found most helpful in the development of your career as an administrator? 

I was a history major as an undergraduate and I tend to gravitate toward historical figures to learn my lessons. I like to read any biographies on Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower or Harry Truman. Those great men have experienced leadership and trauma and they have much to teach us on how we should react to momentous events. 

And lastly, tell us briefly about what you enjoy outside of work. 

Spending time with my family. My wife, Suzie, is also a graduate of UT and was my next-door neighbor, so I literally married the girl next door. We married right before I shipped out to Vietnam and she was pregnant with our first child, Matthew, CFO of Learfield Sports. He and his wife, Shari, and their two sons live in Dallas. Our daughter, Kelly, her husband, Evan Merkur, and their two girls live in Fort Lauderdale; and our daughter, Kate, her husband, Patrick Halinski ’11 and their two daughters live in San Antonio. Patrick is also a graduate of the Health Care Administration program at Trinity and currently is the Associate Chief Operating Officer at St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital.

So, Suzie and I enjoy six grandchildren, ages two to fifteen. We see them often, which is great. I like to play golf, my wife is an accomplished artist, and we love to go to the movies.

A perfect day for me would be to play golf with my friends, have dinner with my wife and another couple, and just relax.