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Decades Interview with Eric Reichle '04

B.S., Business Administration, University of Notre Dame, 2001
M.S., Health Care Administration, Trinity University, 2004
COO, Medical City Dallas

Eric Reichle '04 has always done it his way. That is to say, non-traditionally.

The son of an optometrist, Eric observed first hand the unique challenges and tremendous impact that could be made in health care and was intrigued by the field from a young age. He first tried to break into hospital management with an undergraduate degree. Quickly realizing the need for a master’s, he researched programs and found the Trinity program widely regarded to be among the very best. It proved an excellent choice. “Trinity introduced me to health care management and opened doors to professional opportunities that I could never have accessed without the alumni network,” he says.  

His first unconventional move was to select accounting firm Ernst & Young in lieu of a hospital for his residency, a decision he based on the impressive individuals in the firm and the breadth of experience he could gain there. The choice “challenged me from day one to develop leadership skills and effectively manage my time. I viewed my experience at E&Y as a second graduate degree and it taught me to never stop learning.” 

From Ernst & Young, Eric joined HCA’s Strategic Resource Group, an internal strategy and management consulting division, where he worked closely with HCA senior executives to develop corporate initiatives and help execute market–based strategies. When he learned of a position in HCA’s international division with six private hospitals in London, he approached a senior executive about it. Originally turned down as “not experienced enough,” Eric sought an opportunity to do a project for the division’s president, who eventually called him for an interview. His decision to accept the job in London was “once again not the most popular choice.” “A number of people I highly respect suggested that I not take the job because I would be ‘out of sight, out of mind.'" But take it he did.

In London, Eric expected to find a “well functioning, integrated, and high-quality" national health system. What he encountered was “a system just as disjointed and conflicted as the one I just left.” But the experience did make him more open to new ideas and realize that there are many different ways to address the challenges in hospital management. 

The London sojourn also allowed Eric and his family—wife, Lara, and two young children— the opportunity to travel to new parts of the world. He counts (Mallorca), Spain, (Bordeaux), France, and the Cornwall coast in the UK among their favorite European destinations. “My guilty pleasure is food,” he says, “and when we are able to combine travel to new parts of the world with amazing food, it does not get much better for me.”

After three years in London, Eric received a call from HCA’s COO asking him to interview for the COO position at Medical City Dallas. Totally surprised by the call, Eric admits, “I had to confirm that he knew who was on the other end of the phone.” While he had wanted to stay in London longer, Eric says the job was “one I couldn't pass up."

Back in the U.S. since January, Eric talks about the current state of American health care. “Our incentives remain misaligned and hospitals face significant headwinds including government payers that do not cover the cost of care, a population that is increasingly unhealthy, and a tight labor market for the highly skilled caregivers that define our hospitals. The upside to the current health care environment is the recognition that it is possible to provide high-quality, patient-centered, and cost effective care. The winners will find that balance while mitigating the headwinds through innovative approaches to care.”

Energized by the prospect of facing those headwinds, Eric notes, “Every step I have taken in my career presented a significant variation from what I did before and often starts with me thinking, ‘What did I get myself into?’ From my residency, where I was meant to give experienced health care executives advice, to jumping into a foreign country, to landing in one of HCA’s largest facilities without operational experience, I seem to enjoy running head first into steep learning curves.” 

 

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