On September 20, the Nashville Health Care Council gathered 550 member executives to celebrate HCA Healthcare’s 50th anniversary and the tremendous evolution of Nashville’s health care industry over the past five decades.

To reflect on the company’s history, as well as how Nashville grew into the nation’s health care industry epicenter, the main event featured a panel discussion with a suite of legendary HCA Healthcare leaders, including Jack Bovender, former chairman and CEO; Sam Hazen, president and COO; Milton Johnson, chairman and CEO; and Bill Carpenter, chairman and CEO, LifePoint Health. Nancy-Ann DeParle, partner of Consonance Capital Partners, moderated the vibrant discussion.

View event photos on Flickr.
Photo credit: (c) 2018, Donn Jones.

Prior to the discussion, Mayor David Briley and Council President Hayley Hovious revealed the results of a new research study that details the economic scope and geographic reach of the city’s health care industry. Nashville’s health care community has grown exponentially since 1968, when HCA Healthcare was founded. Since then, Nashville has evolved to be an incubator of health care innovation and services, much in credit to HCA Healthcare’s leadership.

Each panelist was asked to reveal defining moments in the history of HCA Healthcare, and their take on HCA Healthcare’s culture of encouraging collaboration and entrepreneurship. All speakers were in agreement that the key to HCA Healthcare’s success is centered on its commitment to a common mission, a dedicated team and strong leadership.

“There is a distinction between a manager and a leader. I tell people who are making that transition that leaders must make decisions and be accountable, but also inspire with a sense of purpose, build relationships and, above all, have humility,” Johnson said. “No one person in HCA is responsible for its success. It is truly a team effort.”

“It starts with a company that has a great purpose,” Hazen said. “For HCA, we have an incredible pool of talent; but for us it’s understanding the business, doing the right thing and staying true to our values. It’s recognition of these things that helps us stay focused on the patient. We are in the people business.”

“The hardest thing (about leading a company) is to get everyone on the same page,” Carpenter said. “You have to galvanize the team about what matters – patient safety and quality of care.”

Throughout its history, though, HCA Healthcare has not been without its challenges. Bovender noted the evacuation of Tulane Medical Center during Hurricane Katrina as one of the most difficult, yet proudest moments in his career. The panelists also spoke to the challenging nature of transactions as HCA Healthcare expanded into markets across the country.

“We like organic growth but are strategic and highly disciplined when it comes to M&A,” Johnson said. “Consolidation needs a relationship based on trust and honesty. When you buy a hospital and go into a community, that’s a major decision and commitment that we don’t take lightly.”

“Having been with the company for a couple of decades, it’s amazing for me to see how we have expanded to new markets, and I’m really proud to have been a part of that growth,” Hazen added.

“The entrepreneurial culture that Dr. Frist Sr., Dr. Frist Jr., Jack, Milton and others created has been so intentional and has defined HCA,” Carpenter said. “Doing the right thing has infiltrated other companies, like LifePoint. The impact of HCA across this industry should not be underestimated.”

All panelists agreed that HCA Healthcare set the tone for the uniquely collaborative, collegial nature of the nation’s health care capital.

“When I think about the collegiality of this health care community, I think about the Nashville Health Care Council. To give us a forum to share ideas is meaningful and unusual,” Carpenter said. “That would not have been possible without HCA.”

The celebration of HCA Healthcare was made possible by presenting sponsor Bass, Berry & Sims; legacy supporters Acadia Healthcare, AMSURG, an Envision Healthcare Solution, Community Health Systems, LifePoint Health and RCCH HealthCare Partners; and supporting sponsors Amplion Clinical Communications, ESa, HCP, Inc., MEDHOST and PwC.