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Decade Interview with Steve Weylandt '80

Steve Weylandt

Steve.Weylandt [at]

City, State: Houston, TX

HCAD Class Year: Master's of Science in Health Care Administration 1980, B.A. Biology UT Austin 1978 

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 am the Managing Director of BDC Advisors, LLC in Houston, which I joined in 2010 and it is a health care strategy-consulting firm that brings specialized expertise to the business issues of health care clients. We manage a specific, defined project with a work plan and once that is finished, we either move on or continue in another capacity or scope of work.

Some of our clients include NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, which is the major teaching hospital for both Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. We also consult with the Partners Healthcare System, the Harvard teaching hospitals, as well as the Queens Health Systems in Hawaii. There is a niche market for smaller independent hospitals finding it difficult to function as an independent stand alone hospital: that’s how we took on Queens.

I’ve been in health care consulting since graduating from Trinity. I performed my administrative residency at the Seton Medical Center Austin, then went directly into consulting for Price Waterhouse and then joined Robert Douglass Associates in Houston which provided strategy and planning for health care clients. That firm was acquired by Deloitte in 1988 and I became a partner with Deloitte & Touche in 1989. Throughout the years, I’ve owned my own health care strategy firm and worked for a time with a group of psychiatrists in a startup telemedicine business, which still provides emergency psychiatric services via teleconferencing.

Why did you select Trinity's HCAD program? 

As an undergraduate, I was interested in the medical field because as a teenager growing up in West Texas, I worked one summer as an orderly on a hospital surgical floor. I met the gentleman who was the hospital administrator and learned about that role. As I explored that further, I looked for graduate programs and certainly knew of Trinity’s academic program. I liked the approach of the Health Care Administration program including the 15 months on campus and one year residency. It was different from the others and appealing to a Texas guy like myself. I definitely saw my career in Texas.

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

Yes. They were much simpler days back then. The chairman at that time was Steve Tucker who taught the intro course and first lecture. He told us that all of our program content would be based on a fairly typical 400-bed community hospital and that gave us a very good overview of the industry as well as a practical look at the various departments such as HR, legal and financial management. 

The yearlong residency was instrumental for us all. As a resident at Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, I spent time in multiple departments from cardiac diagnostic to the operating room, as well as housekeeping and accounts payable. There was a consulting firm there at the time doing a project and I was assigned to help them in early-stage work. I got to see what the consulting side entailed and I was intrigued. There are two kinds of people; those oriented toward the project-specific mindset and those who are managerial process mindset. I liked the focus of the project set of objectives in a limited timeframe. In consulting, I could come into a structured organization with a role for entry-level people and enjoy a proper career progression.

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

The Health Care Administration program helped me secure a very strong position in this industry and enjoy a variety of opportunities. Some of my classmates went into hospital management, insurance, managed care and the Veteran’s Administration. It gave us a great platform to enter career opportunities in many fields. We are also great networkers and still talk to and help each other. There were only 25 of us in the class and I still stay in touch with at least 10 of them. 

Trinity has also been very good about encouraging students to attend the annual ACHE Congress in Chicago each spring. There is always a special Trinity dinner providing an opportunity for current students to meet with leaders in the health care field.

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

One project that stands out took place at the Douglass firm where we did pre-architectural facility planning. A lot of planning back then dealt with buildings and physical facilities. It was an ambulatory care addition and we were invited back for the opening. I was pleased to see that many of the assumptions we had made were still holding true.

When I worked with the brand new Dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, my team analyzed the scientific research funding from entities such as the National Institutes of Health. Our plan resulted in MUSC growing its research funding level from $16 million to $175 million. It was great to see the hospital blossom as a well-respected facility.

Now, working with Queens in Hawaii, which is a small state and fairly isolated, we are helping them transition from a single site large, complex hospital in Honolulu to a statewide health system. It has been fun and gratifying.

Also, when I left Deloitte & Touche, they gave me a project in Lebanon because the teaching hospital client needed US expertise. I traveled back and forth eight times over a two-year period, helping them understand the true cost of care and negotiating payment rates. That was professionally interesting and rewarding. The last trip I made in 2006, we got caught in the Hezbollah – Israeli conflict and were unable to fly out of the country as the airport had been bombed. Several of us hired a private car and drove through Syria past a chaotic border and then into Amman, Jordan. One of my Deloitte colleagues spoke Arabic and smoothed the way for our exit so I never felt any real risk but the bombing did take place only a few miles from where I was staying!  

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

Well, it is still a job that is very demanding with very high expectations. There are the logistics of constant travel and fast pace. My main motivation is the pride and joy of having my clients say, ‘Great job!’ The money is nice, but performing a helpful service is really the strong motivator for me.  

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

It has changed in every possible way! When I started, health care spending was 6% of the gross domestic product; now it is 18% and a nationally charged political issue. In those days, Seton was considered large with a 300-bed facility and $100 million in revenue. These days, there are $10 billion health care systems. Information technology has revolutionized the industry. The usage of electronic health records is a big change and communication is also drastically different. The last four or five years, consumerism has infiltrated the industry. It used to be that the doctors told the patients what to do…and they did it. Now, consumers are making decisions about who to see and where to go based on websites such as Healthgrades®. There are changes in insurance plan designs. It’s all very different.

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

This is very much a doctor-patient industry and I, for one, hope that never goes away. The very best health care is provided when the doctor has ultimate control over how that care is delivered. However, this doctor-patient relationship will continue to evolve, based on the tenets of consumerism. Patients will likely become even more proactive and enabling technology will continue to evolve. 

I believe that calling a doctor’s office to make an appointment will not exist in 15 years. You’ll get on mobile technology devices and do it yourself. In fact, patients might not even go into the office, but talk to their physician via video conferencing. The hospital facility and physician might do robotic surgery from two states away.

There will be a very significant change from an economics standpoint because in any large metro market, we are moving towards five or so groups of hospitals and doctors merging into health care systems. The branding of those health care systems will emerge and people might prefer a particular brand, much like how they choose one product over another, based on how it’s marketed.

Even now, most physicians don’t come out of medical school and go into private practice; they join other doctor groups. Those organizational elements are already in place for an even greater merging of systems.

Finally, there is a moving together of insurance and physician providers. That used to be a transactional relationship, but in the future buying insurance will likely give you access to a certain group of doctors and hospital systems.

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

I would suggest that they get a strong functional education and experience. The generalist model, under which I was trained will not be as applicable moving forward. The managerial functions that are performed by MS-HCAD graduates are now performed by nurses and physicians who better understand the clinical practice. If new managers to the field take a business approach, it should be specific, such as insurance, financial, or marketing. After all, you don’t go to work for Exxon as the general manager, but rather you go into engineering or marketing and work your way up. 

The basic foundation and residency that Trinity offers is a rich, deep experience that is very valuable.

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

It would be the very same thing that I shared with future students. 

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

I think it’s always important to have an awareness of the industry. I read Health Care Financial Management and Modern Healthcare magazine. I’m on many feeds like HealthLeaders Media; plus, I follow numerous health care journalists, who are very insightful and bring different points of view to the table. Twitter is a very effective way to communicate. For example, the president of NewYork-Presbyterian is on Twitter and I enjoy familiarizing myself with his views on various health care issues. I’m intrigued by professional profiles like his—he’s a golfer, I’m a golfer. It’s a way to keep track of industry trends and to get to know the players better.

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

I love to travel, especially internationally. And, I love to hit the golf course. I live on a course so I play at least 50 times a year! My wife, Candace, takes care of me and we have a 23-year-old daughter, Taylor, who’s become a serious foodie. The three of us are working our way through the Houston Chronicle’s Top 100 restaurants. I’m also an avid college football fan and even follow Mack Brown and Texas football on Twitter!