Having a call to service in his blood, Brent Hardaway '85 planned to follow his parents’ footsteps and enter the seminary. During his undergraduate years, he realized the seminary was not the right choice for him, but thanks to advice from “wonderful mentors,” he channeled that impulse toward hospital administration in general and Trinity University in particular. A summer as a unit clerk at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and an internship at Research Medical Center in Kansas City cemented his decision to enter the Trinity HCAD program immediately after college.
At Trinity, Brent developed wonderful relationships and recognized the significance of “those support systems that are created for you as a result of the Trinity alumni network.” He later had the opportunity to serve on the HCAD Alumni Association Board and enjoyed “getting to know those incredible individuals, and then knowing professors Mary [Stefl] and Steve [Tucker] and Paul [Golliher] through the years and their pointing out Trinity alumni I should hire.”
While he found it enjoyable, Brent’s residency at Roanoke Hospital —“one of the great things about the Trinity program”— left him wanting to explore more than the hospital operations side of health care. He went to work for Kaiser Permanente in their Washington D.C. office and “what I learned there has actually helped me tremendously 20 years later when I began the population health advisory service at Premier, Inc. “
Brent moved into consulting for health care in 1994 when he joined Phase 2 Consulting, a small boutique strategy firm. He “learned the ropes from an incredible mentor” and eventually took over management of the firm after it was sold to RehabCare. That consultancy was subsequently sold to Premier, Inc. in 2009, and for the last six years, as Vice President, Brent has been responsible for the population health advisory services there. “We were some of the first to develop these types of services in response to the Affordable Care Act,” he explains, “and we’ve assisted numerous health systems as they navigate the journey to population health management.”
The changing reimbursement system, which is moving more risk and accountability for cost and quality to the providers, is the issue that currently demands most of his time. “It’s the most important step in moving our health care system away from a focus on generating volume,” he says. “Widening the focus to involve the health and well being of a population is a wonderful and terrifying journey. One change that needs to be worked on, though, is involving individuals in taking accountability for their own health. One of the most significant problems with the ACA is the lack of patient accountability. That must be addressed and is being addressed by providers as they continue to deal with the changes to the reimbursement system.”
The most difficult part of Brent’s job, ironically, is what he finds most fulfilling: trying to stay ahead of the curve and help his clients prepare for and address the most significant challenges facing them. “In today’s environment, with all the changes occurring, it is difficult to stay ahead, but that is what I love about what I do—being challenged to constantly learn and to pass on that knowledge to providers who are looking for assistance.”
Over the course of his 22-year career in health care consulting, Brent has done work in every state “except Maine, unfortunately.” Thanks to his heavy travel schedule, he accumulates lots of frequent flyer miles and free hotel stays, a perk he and his wife, Susan, enjoy, especially for visits to their children, who like their father and grandparents before them, are called to careers in service to their communities. After Teach for America, they have both continued in education.
Paying it forward, Brent advises current HCAD students and early careerists to be open to a wide variety of potential career paths and ways to be impactful on their communities. “There are so many ways to serve.”