Gary Kendrick '80 is a man on the move. Literally. In his 35-year career in health care, he has held CEO or Interim CEO positions in eight states and there may be more in his future.
Gary began his career with Hospital Corporation of America/Quorum Health Resources (HCA/QHR) where he was an immediate standout, becoming CEO of a hospital in El Campo, Texas, less than a year after graduating from Trinity. By 1984, he had held CEO or Interim CEO positions in four hospitals in four states.
As CEO of the Lincoln County Health System in Fayetteville, TN, a position he held for nearly twelve years, Gary faced formidable challenges. “I walked into a situation where we had a 50-year-old crumbling hospital, not enough physicians, were losing money, and morale was terrible,” he recalls. “We battled through county politics for three years to finally gain approval to build a new campus without tax money.” The result was a $25 million project that included a new hospital, a medical office building, a new laundry building and a new ambulance building. In addition to directing the design and construction, Gary oversaw the recruitment of 23 new full-time medical staff and numerous part-time specialists and added new services, such as a sleep disorders clinic, and an in-hospital MRI unit and PAC system in the diagnostic imaging department. He also aided in creating the Lincoln County Health System Foundation to help sustain the system’s invigorated momentum. “In my entire 35-year career,” says Gary, “it is without a doubt the accomplishment I am most proud of.”
In mid 2011, Gary left QHR and began working as an Interim CEO for various companies. On the move again, his work took him to community hospitals in Indiana, Wyoming, Kentucky, Georgia and most recently to Texas where he is currently Interim CEO of Houston County Medical Center in Crockett. There, his priority is transitioning the hospital from a leased facility back to a county hospital district, an initiative that includes starting a new hospital within the current facility and negotiating all the various contracts that accompany such a transition. Obviously enjoying the variety of challenges and situations he has encountered in the various settings, he says, “I have made the decision to do Interim CEO work until I actually retire.”
In the course of his long career, Gary has seen dramatic changes: physicians moving from being independent practitioners to becoming employed by groups or, increasingly, by hospitals; increased regulations; decreases in and changes in reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies; increasing costs for supplies and equipment; and shortages in certain clinical areas—all major challenges throughout the industry.
Although Trinity provided Gary with a strong foundation and the practical skills needed to deal with such challenges, there is another aspect of his Trinity education that has proved equally important. “Basically, every opportunity career-wise that I have had has been through my connections as a Trinity graduate,” he says. “I cannot think of a position I have had that has not been due to my friendship or connections with Trinity graduates.” As a longtime member and Past President of the Trinity University Health Care Administration Alumni Association Board, Gary shares this advice: “We tell students every year when the board meets with them to stay in touch with classmates and other Trinity graduates and continue to network until you retire.”
Active in his home community of Washington, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, Diane, a second grade teacher—their son is a senior at the University of Evansville— Gary serves on the boards of the Daviess Community Hospital Foundation, Genesis Health Alliance, United Way of Daviess County, Daviess County Economic Development and is a Rotarian. In his free time, he enjoys golf, working in the yard, traveling and spending time with family and friends, which he says is a challenge. “As an Interim CEO, I only get home every two-three weeks.” As a Trinity alumnus, it’s but one of the many challenges he is well prepared to tackle.