Spending an hour with Philip Patterson was a lot like running into an old friend at the barbershop on a Saturday morning. Except, in this instance, I’d never met the “old friend,” the barbershop was a boardroom with limited keycard access, and the guy I was talking to wasn’t there to get his haircut, but to manage a major healthcare company. Still, despite his lofty title as Chief Executive Officer of Owensboro Health, Patterson proved to be as down-to-earth as any of the friendly faces I passed on my way to the top floor of the hospital.
When making a request for an interview, we were instructed that Patterson, due to his limited availability, could squeeze us in the following week, at two o’clock sharp, for twenty or thirty minutes. To be clear, this was neither offensive nor unexpected. Only a few days prior, Patterson had officially begun his tenure as CEO of an organization with over 3,700 employees. In addition to his daily duties as an administrator, practically everyone in town, including amateur reporters, was asking for a piece of his time. In other words, calling him “busy” would be a gross understatement.
Well aware of the demands on Patterson’s time, we arrived early so as not to disrupt his hectic schedule. Upon arriving, we were led up the elevator to the floor that housed the executive offices. Still a few minutes early, we walked into Patterson’s empty office. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in fairly modest surroundings – at least in relation to my limited knowledge of what a CEO’s office should look like. In fact, the space in the room ultimately proved too limited to accommodate the photos we planned to take that day. (I later realized that Patterson’s modest office was well-suited to his unpretentious personality. Additionally, it’s highly possible that those designing the office knew that Patterson’s cramped calendar wouldn’t allow him to spend much time there.)
Looking for a larger space, we ventured upstairs to the boardroom. There, we waited a few more minutes before being graciously greeted by Patterson. Though he arrived only a few minutes later than scheduled, he apologized for his tardiness, and seemed excited to begin the interview. We suspected that his brief delay was caused by an important meeting with even more important people. In a sense, we were correct. But instead of being caught up in a conference with high-ranking executives, Patterson had spent the preceding portion of his day delivering turkeys to the employees that were now under his watch. While handing out frozen fowl to co-workers may not be a task that speaks to the business acumen of a hospital CEO, the simple gesture spoke volumes to me.
During the course of the interview, Patterson’s everyman personality became even more apparent. Had I not been aware of his previous position as CEO of a three-hospital system in New York, I might have guessed that he was a local. That’s because Patterson’s new position at Owensboro Health represented something of a homecoming. Though he never previously resided in Owensboro, Patterson was born a Southerner. Originally from Mobile, Alabama, Patterson has replanted his Southern roots here in Owensboro: a move that, given his background, seemed almost inevitable. Growing up in Alabama, Patterson watched his dad practice medicine, and his step-father work as a hospital administrator. Though given his own choice as to which profession he would pursue, the healthcare field was certainly a strong frontrunner. Ultimately, deciding that the business side of the field best suited his own interests, Patterson set out on the path that would lead him to Owensboro.
A graduate of Auburn University, Patterson proudly roots for the Tigers of his home state. Since my alma mater, the University of Kentucky, tends to struggle on the gridiron, and Auburn doesn’t typically excel on the hardwood, we didn’t let our sports allegiances come between us (although I don’t think he appreciated my Cam Newton joke). Knowing that he’d already answered a million questions about Obamacare, we largely kept business out of the interview. Patterson would go on to glowingly tell me about his family: a wife, Crystal, and two daughters. Admitting that he married up when he wed someone with a degree in nursing and a juris doctorate, Patterson came across as anything but the typical, high-powered executive. Instead, he revealed himself as a family man, proud of his wife’s work as an attorney, and involved in the lives of his Girl Scout daughters.
According to Patterson, “Moving to Owensboro Health is a tremendous opportunity for both me and my family. It is exciting to be part of such a vibrant, growing community and a health system that has achieved so much success in the area of quality and wellness.”
Patterson’s position undoubtedly comes with new challenges, great responsibility, and an increasingly busy schedule. Still, after sitting in the hospital boardroom for an hour and talking about everything from football to family vacations, it’s clear that this hospital CEO has his priorities in healthy order.
[tw-divider]By the Numbers[/tw-divider]
- Owensboro Health serves the medical needs of nine counties in western Kentucky and two counties in southern Indiana.
- Last year, Owensboro Health delivered 1,820 babies, performed 273 open-heart procedures
- and 1.276 million lab tests.
- Owensboro Health employees 3,739 staff members.
- For five years in a row (2009-2013), Owensboro Health has been ranked in the top 5 percent for clinical excellence by HealthGrades, a leading healthcare rating firm.