Any time an organization the size of Owensboro Health is searching for a new leader, they focus on those well-rounded candidates whose characteristics make them uniquely suited for a position with such high and varied demands. Fortunately for Owensboro Health, they needed look no farther than within their own confines. That’s where they found newly-named CEO Greg Strahan, who brings with him valuable lessons from childhood, a personal understanding of the value of good healthcare during difficult circumstances, and a lifetime of practical experience in the field.
Originally from Poplarville, Mississippi (population 2,601), Strahan didn’t always have his sights set on a career in healthcare. Out of high school, Strahan attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a Bachelor’s in Accounting. He then began his professional career as an accountant, and also worked as a comptroller for a furniture rental company. But unforeseen circumstances would soon introduce him to the world of healthcare.
“Healthcare has always been a field that’s intrigued me. It’s because of my experience with my first wife, that really drove that. She had a brain tumor at 24, and she died at 27, so our experience with the healthcare system is that we were thrust into it at a young age. Having gone through that experience – radiation, chemotherapy, cobalt, surgery, all the challenges of that all the way through to knowing that it was a terminal illness, it was a big part of my life.”
Through that tragic and life-changing experience, Strahan gained a newfound respect for the healthcare industry and the professionals that make up that field. With this new perspective, he entered the durable medical equipment industry to run a company for a group of 100 physicians in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. During his time with that company, it was by chance that Strahan served on a pastor search committee with the president of a local 200-bed hospital (Owensboro Health Regional Hospital has 477 beds, by comparison). Though Strahan wasn’t looking to change careers, that gentleman approached him about managing physicians’ offices. As Strahan remembers, “I told him I didn’t know anything about running doctor’s offices, and he said ‘You know more than we do.’”
That position laid the groundwork for Strahan’s future in healthcare. He gained valuable experience, and spent countless hours as a physician recruiter. By that time, Greg had married his wife, Susie, and the two of them, along with juggling a young family, entertained doctors several nights a week in an effort to grow his employer’s presence in the region.
In 1995, Strahan was recruited to North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he met Dr. Jeff Barber. It was this meeting that would eventually bring Strahan to Owensboro, where Dr. Barber served as CEO of Owensboro Medical Health System beginning in 2004. A year later, Strahan would follow Barber here, taking the position of vice president of business development in 2005. Since that time, Strahan has served as COO, and now as CEO.
In his more than 30 years in the healthcare industry, Strahan has come to appreciate every aspect of the process. As an administrator, he must focus on safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. But he also understands the human element, and possesses both a respect for physicians and staff, as well as empathy for their patients.
Having undergone open-heart surgery, Strahan knows firsthand the value of a quality medical provider. “I have a great deal of respect for what these folks can do, how smart they are, how talented they are,” Strahan said. “And I’ll always be indebted to Dr. Sohit Khana (Strahan’s heart surgeon).”
As an administrator, Strahan wants to ensure that same level of quality care continues at Owensboro Health going forward. In addition to having skilled staff on board, Strahan also stresses the importance of statistical data in medicine. “We rely on quality metrics, which is what makes a difference in healthcare – the more reliability, the safer the care, and the safer the care, the better the outcomes, and the better the outcomes, the less likelihood of having people readmitted to the hospital.”
This focus on increasing efficiency and lowering costs, while also maintaining an extremely high standard of care, drives everything that Strahan does as CEO. And though we spent much time looking back on how he arrived at this place in his professional career, it’s clear that he also has an eye toward the future, as he seeks to further improve every aspect of Owensboro’s healthcare experience.