CEO Chat – Amy Carrier, Centra Health

This is a guest post provided by Amy Carrier. Carrier is the President and CEO at Centra Health in Lynchburg, VA.

Describe your current role and how long you have been in that position.

My current role is the President and CEO of Centra. I’ve been in my role just over a year, celebrating my one-year anniversary on September 7th, so I’m just now moving into my second year in this role.

What has been your career path that led to being President and CEO at Centra?

My career path is a little bit unusual. I didn’t originally plan to go into healthcare. I had an undergraduate degree in labor studies with a focus in occupational sociology. Having difficulty finding a job, my mother suggested I try healthcare.

I spent the first decade of my career managing physician practices before going into consulting with Price Waterhouse Coopers. Eventually, I went to work in hospital finance, and then became a director of business operations, a senior director overseeing many clinical services in hospitals, as well as various leadership roles before Centra.

It’s been a winding path with a lot of different experiences in different areas. Like physician practice and community health and service lines and operations and finance, but I’ve always been in a supportive role, never as a clinician. To this day, I still think of myself as a support leader. Having worked my way up through so many different roles, I really have incredible respect for the value that every person on our team brings to the work that we do.

Do you feel that your education in occupational sociology helped you, or if you had a to do over again, would you take a different academic path to get where you are?

It’s interesting. Although I never formally went into human resources, everything I do is in human resources. My role has always been about finding and developing talent and leadership.

As you’ve moved into new organizations, not just Centra, what have been the major challenges of assuming leadership in a new organization? Not specific business issues in that organization, but what have been the general challenges you faced?

I think every organization has its own challenges, so it’s been important for me – as I’ve grown in my leadership role – to really take the time to understand the organization and what specific needs they have. I will say that COVID has changed what our challenges look like. Every organization has its own set of challenges, but the pandemic presented a whole new set of challenges to all of us.

When you change organizations, I’m sure you bring a certain culture with you. How much of that do you try to instill versus how much do you try to adapt to the existing culture?

Culture is something that takes a really long time to change. Coming into an organization as a new leader, my expectations are somewhat realistic about how much and how quickly cultural change can really be embraced or felt throughout the organization. At Centra, our culture is focused on “People First.” Why people first? Why not patients first, isn’t everything about our patients? Yes, it is. That is our mission. That’s the reason we exist as an organization: to care for our communities. People first says that if we don’t take care of our people, we cannot take care of our community, so we have to start recognizing where our people are in healthcare and creating a culture that is supportive and focuses on their wellbeing, but it will take time.

What do you feel are the major challenges and opportunities in healthcare today?

I would say the number one challenge is workforce development and really healing and having our workforce able to reconnect. Staffing issues are o a part of that, but having two years of caregivers who have experienced moral distress and where that leaves their wellbeing is a really big challenge for us. Things like the cost of utilities, supply chain disruption, modernization of facilities with the associated cost of goods and construction, in addition to the challenges with the workforce, create financial challenges.

There are a lot of challenges but also a lot of opportunities. When we think about modernization of facilities, do we have to do everything ourselves? Can we partner with people when we think about community needs? We can partner with those in our community to help to invest in their businesses, the people who do that well, and let them expand.

What major change you see healthcare needing to make today that will enhance the delivery of healthcare in the future?

We need to see more investment in health professions and programs that help with tuition for health professions. We need to grow our workforce through academic partnerships and really talk with students in high schools – even in junior high – about health professions. We need to think about the aging infrastructure of health systems across the country.

As a CEO, how do you see information technology impacting healthcare now and in the future?

I think that healthcare technology can be an enabler even though it doesn’t always work that way. In the future, we’ll have to look at how we can use technology to extend our workforce and support their workflow in a way that removes barriers and allows them to be more efficient.

I also think telehealth and remote patient monitoring can really be used to extend the workforce and to enhance patients’ experience of care by allowing them to be at home longer and receive care in an outpatient setting. Using technology will absolutely be critical as we look at workforce shortages. For example, using cameras and little mobile robots that can view patients in their rooms will allow a single person to view and monitor them all remotely.

Thank you so much for your insightful comments. Any closing comments you’d like to make?

I appreciate the opportunity, and I’m honored that you would think of and want to interview me. I’m really proud of our Centra team here and the innovation, the care, and the compassion they provide.