AMSTERDAM – Becoming president and CEO of a community hospital has been a lifelong goal for Jeffrey Methven.
“It’s been pretty rewarding to finally attain that, but attaining a goal is one step. It’s now what you do with the opportunity,” said Methven on his third day at the helm of St. Mary’s Healthcare.
The St. Mary’s Board of Trustees through a nationwide search selected Methven late last year to succeed retiring President and CEO Scott Bruce.
The rapidly changing health care industry can be challenging, but Methven is enthusiastically embracing the “opportunities” at St. Mary’s to continue providing quality care.
“People need us now more than they’ve ever needed health care professionals,” Methven said. “It’s a true honor and privilege to be in this seat, because you really do have the ability to not only drive change but have a real impact on how care is being delivered for a community.”
Still very new to St. Mary’s, Methven acknowledged he is initially focused on getting to know staff and immersing himself in the organization. His first days were spent circulating and interacting with new colleagues.
“We’ve got a great group of health care professionals here. It’s evident as you walk through the organization the level of compassion, level of commitment and sense of pride in St. Mary’s,” Methven said. “If you don’t have that it takes years to build. The fact that we’ve got that, and it’s something I can simply nurture and continue to progress, I think is exciting.”
Before embarking on his new role Methven held leadership positions at Saratoga Hospital for nearly 20 years and was named executive vice president in 2020. He and his wife have three children.
The family has lived in the town of Saratoga for roughly 17 years.
Methven got started in health care by working in human resources at Corning Hospital in the Finger Lakes Region where he grew up.
Though not a clinician by trade, Methven’s interest in hospital administration was sparked by time spent early in his career working closely with the CEO at Corning Hospital, and his path was later refined through tight relationships with other health care executives.
“I was very fortunate at a young age to be working with those individuals to really understand how important a hospital is to its community,” Methven said. “While we’re not necessarily caregivers at the bedside, their actions, their work really had a lasting impact on the community.”
Although he didn’t realize it at the time, Methven now traces much of his interest in supporting others and building relationships back to summers spent as a child on his grandparents’ dairy farm.
“My grandparents had deep relationships with so many people,” Methven said. “My grandfather wore many hats and knew everybody, and he did a lot for people.”
Methven would help out with chores on the farm and join his grandfather in making local deliveries, often making extra stops along the way to check on neighbors.
His grandfather’s generosity helped others meet their needs. And his willingness to take on various roles, such as becoming the town assessor and operating a feed store to fill a void, supported area farms.
“There were occasions where people couldn’t pay him and that was perfectly fine,” Methven said. “He was really going out of his way to ensure that individuals had the means to survive regardless of what their lot in life was.”
The way his grandfather touched the lives of others has come into focus in Methven’s adulthood. The ability to have a lasting impact or simply have a positive interaction with someone is motivating for him.
“Everybody goes through challenging times, but if you’ve built relationships and you feel like you’ve made a difference when you leave at the end of the day, whatever time that is, that’s a good day,” Methven said.
Recognizing the life-changing and -saving role of clinicians, Methven is looking forward to supporting hands-on staff at St. Mary’s and building relationships with the local community.
While he’s still learning the lay of the land, Methven has already identified some immediate priorities for St. Mary’s that include stabilizing the not-for-profit’s financial position and bolstering staffing levels.
“The opportunities we have at St. Mary’s are not unique to what is happening across the country in health care,” Methven said.
Rising costs, supply-chain disruptions and falling reimbursement rates are among the ingredients straining already tight margins for health care organizations. At the same time, workers are leaving the industry or taking on nontraditional roles as new recruits to the field are lagging.
St. Mary’s must develop a pipeline to funnel skilled health care workers to positions within the organization. Meeting the needs of staff members and ensuring that they are able to achieve a work-life balance is equally important, according to Methven.
“Right now, like a lot of organizations, we’re challenged to find physician and advanced provider talent, so it’s being able to successfully recruit into specialties that we right now have need for, and grow those specialties,” Methven said.
Of course, health care organizations are still grappling with COVID-19 even as President Joe Biden announced national and public health emergencies will come to an end on May 11. Federal aid for testing, treatment and vaccinations will be impacted by the move.
“We have a high Medicaid and self-pay population, so as some of those federal programs unwind there is that risk that services that are being paid for today may not be paid at the same level. But that shouldn’t take away from our responsibility to continue to deliver those services,” Methven said.
BASICS AND BEYOND
Highlighting primary care as the agency’s foundation, Methven indicated that adding family medicine and primary care providers is vital. There are also openings in general surgery, urology and oncology.
Hospital leaders are actively defining core services and opportunities to expand programs and services. St. Mary’s will also seek to reduce costs by establishing and expanding partnerships with other health care organizations and physician groups to find ways to continue providing a full range of specialized care, Methven said.
“In the environment we’re in, it is becoming more and more difficult to be all things to everyone,” Methven said. “We’ll continue to look for new revenue streams and new opportunities to make sure that we’re not only sustaining service but continue to evolve and enhance services for the communities we serve.”
St. Mary’s will apparently maintain its unique position as one of the few independent health care organizations in the state after leaving the Ascension Healthcare Network in 2020.
“That decision is clear on the part of our governing body,” Methven said. “What I’ve been asked to do is work with our leadership team, work with our associates, identify opportunities and find ways to work collaboratively in partnership with a number of different organizations.”
Regardless of any operational changes, Methven said the mission at St. Mary’s will always remain the same.
“I’m looking forward to what we’re going to accomplish here at St. Mary’s,” Methven said. “Ensuring that every member of our community has the same opportunity for quality health care, and we deliver it in a consistent and compassionate way every time.”
COMPANY: St. Mary’s Healthcare
TITLE: President and CEO
EDUCATION: Executive MBA from Simon Business School at the University of Rochester; bachelor of science in industrial relations from Le Moyne College
BEST LESSON IN BUSINESS: “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “What gets measured gets done.”