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New HCADAA Board Member - Rick Merrill '84

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? 

Over the course of my career, I've had the privilege of working in several sectors of the health care industry (University Teaching Hospitals, Non-Profit, For-Profit and Children's Hospitals). For the past seven years, I've been honored to serve as the President and CEO of Cook Children's Health Care System. We are working to move the needle on children's health issues which will have a significant impact on the cost of care and the health of our community. It's our Promise to improve the health of all children in the region and make our area the healthiest place to raise a child. To achieve that goal, we've expanded capacity and access to meet the growing demands of our community and we are developing measurable programs to tackle identified health issues of our children. 

You have held leadership positions with a range of health care facilities, now most recently one focused on children's health services. What skill set do you utilize most caring for families in this special environment?

There are tectonic shifts and uncertainty on the horizon like never before, and it takes resilience and resolve to keep our organization moving forward. My expectations for myself are high and I set equally high standards for my team. We've made a very clear promise to our community to improve the health of every child in our region through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury. It's a very simple statement that everyone can understand and embrace. I'm blessed to work with physicians, nurses and staff who have rallied around this unwavering commitment. 

This can be a very stressful profession at times. How have you stayed focused and positive during the toughest times of your career? 

No matter how stressful the environment can become, getting out from behind my desk, walking the units (Hematology/Oncology, Cardiology, etc.) to engage staff, our patients and families serves as a powerful reminder of the meaningful work that we do here. Every day I witness the heroic efforts of our physicians, nurses and staff. Their work fortifies and inspires me. Remaining engaged with the physicians and employees throughout our organization is a top priority of mine because without them, all we'd have is bricks and mortar. Our people make our organization truly special. 

Why did you select the HCAD Program? 

It is one of the top health care administration graduate programs in the country. With its extensive network of HCAD alumni and blend of academic and experiential learning, it was the natural fit for me and my pursuit of a career in health care. 

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

It certainly provided me with a strong foundation. Throughout my career, I have been amazed at the vast network of HCAD alumni who are always willing to help and serve as a resource. 

What advice would you share with individuals considering pursuing a master's in health care administration in Trinity's HCAD Program? 

You will not find a higher-caliber program. Trinity does a remarkable job preparing individuals for the challenging health care environment. 

Many HCAD students are seeking a career with a children's hospital. What specific advice would you like to share with them? 

If you are interested in pursuing such a career, I encourage you to utilize the alumni network to help make introductions for you and pursue them with alacrity. Children's hospitals are a truly special environment that attract individuals who believe this is not just a career but a calling. I can attest to the fact that our patients are cared for by staff that provide compassionate care, give of their heart, and demonstrate unrivaled dedication and grace. 

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

It's important to stay abreast of what's happening, particularly with industry-wide shifts in health care, so I consume the various trade journals (Modern Healthcare, Becker's Hospital Review, Health Care Advisory Board, McKinsey and Company publications, to name a few). Given the profound changes in health care, I also recommend William Bridge's Managing Transitions. A favorite read of mine is William Manchester's The Last Lion leaning on the example of Winston Churchill's resolve in very difficult circumstances. 

Recently, you were named a new board member of Trinity University's Health Care Administration Alumni Association. Congratulations! What are your impressions of how the Alumni Association can be a resource for its graduates? 

As graduates, we are part of an active network of alumni spanning the country. Take full advantage of any and all networking opportunities, stay in touch with your classmates and explore fully all the incredible resources HCADAA affords you. 

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

While I will always work hard to be successful at my job, it's also extremely important to spend time with my family. They always remain my priority. Beyond work and family, I enjoy bicycling and cooking, as well as dabbling in songwriting and have even been fortunate enough to have a few songs published. As an avid student of history, especially World War II, I have a deep admiration of strong leaders, like Winston Churchill.