Joel Yuhas

Q&A with Joel Yuhas, President and CEO of Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center

November 06, 2015
by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor
For this month’s installment of Hospital Spotlight, HealthCare Business News reached across the country to catch up with Joel Yuhas, CEO of Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center, and found out he’s no stranger to traveling coast-to-coast either. Read on to find out more.
HCB News: How did you get involved in health care?
Like many people who are pondering what they want to do in life, I initially had the thought of going into medical school. I was a biology major as an undergrad in my home of Cleveland. When you’re in high school, administration is something you don’t get a lot of exposure to. I was working at the pharmacy in Mount Sinai in Cleveland, and I really got a different exposure to hospitals and health care.
I took my GMATS and EMCATS, like many do, but I was excited about administration. I was excited to take my MBA in health care administration. I took on my residency under the chief nurse in Mount Sinai Cleveland. It gave me a broad understanding of how an administrator can have a positive impact on patient care and that really got me excited. After 10 years, I left and moved to Washington D.C. and Georgetown — on their cancer and Medicare programs and that continued to inspire my career. The previous CEO from Mount Sinai in Cleveland moved back to his home in California and contacted me to ask if I’d like to be his COO at a small hospital in northern California.
From there, to Tenet, then a large hospital in Philadelphia called Graduate. A mentor came out of retirement and asked if I’d like to come back to California. I came back and really loved the hospital. I’ve been the president and CEO since December 2014. I’m thrilled to be back in Long Beach and managing some great mission-driven programs.
HCB News: What is your hospital’s patient makeup?
The hospital is a Medicare- and Medicaid- proportioned hospital. We’ve been serving Long Beach since 1923 along with our sister hospital St. Bernardine in San Bernardino. The founders are based out of Houston, Texas. We have a number of different mission programs, including an HIV care provider program which is the largest in the region. We’re also a teaching hospital with a large internal medicine residency program.
HCB News: What attracts staff to Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center?
I think there are at least two things that really attract physicians and employees. The first is that we have a faith-based mission. I know people certainly seek that out for their maternity experience and for various reasons, that mission really permeates. My goal for potential employees is for this to be the hospital employer choice because we’ve embraced the culture of human kindness.
The second reason is that we’re a teaching hospital. Our hospital’s commitment to teaching attracts the best and they want to share their experience. I think when a person comes to a hospital with that commitment it inspires us to be at the top of our game. Teaching hospitals inspire a culture of continued learning and a drive to be at the cutting edge of both technology and care delivery.
HCB News: What kind of challenges does your facility face?
I think hospitals in the U.S. are all dealing with the changes from health reform. There is constant pressure to provide an efficient and deliverable service at a lower cost and under lower reimbursement. Part of the benefit of being part of a large system like Dignity Health is that we’re innovative in exploring different ways to provide care that we’re able to test among our facilities.
HCB News: What do you think will be the big changes to health care in the next decade?
I would say we’re going to continue to see reimbursement changes, with reimbursements decreasing over time. And consumer preferences will continue to change. So while hospitals were built to be big places, consumers don’t necessarily want to be treated that way. They’re increasingly seeking personalized and personal care. There will be greater partnering with patients to receive the kind of care they want in an affordable way.
HCB News: What do you think hospitals will need to do to be successful in 10 years?
We’re a level II trauma center. We receive over 56,000 visits in a 23-bed emergency department and some of the drivers in this go to a macro perspective. While we’re thrilled that the ACA has come into play and provided people access to at least Medi-Cal in Long Beach, there’s an enormous deficit of primary care physicians.