Offering service, leadership when it’s most needed

The following is a reprint from Modern Healthcare, November 16, 2013; written by Rachel Landen.

Selfless. Passionate. Insightful. Humble. Thought leader. Statesman. These are just some of the words used to describe Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health based in Jacksonville, Fla., and the winner of Modern Healthcare’s 2013 Community Leadership Award.

Greene, 60, has been with Baptist Health for nearly 2½ decades, serving at the helm of the not-for-profit system since 2000. But he’s just as well-known in Jacksonville and across the state of Florida for his work outside of Baptist Health as he is for his CEO position.

“Hugh Greene is everywhere. Everyone in this community knows him and respects what he does,” said Cindy Funkhouser, president and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center for the homeless in Jacksonville. In 1995, the Sulzbacher Center opened the country’s first federally qualified health center associated with an organization that serves the homeless. As a board member, and later chairman, of the organization, Greene had a lot to do with that.

“He felt we really needed to add health services to those we were already providing … to address the comprehensive needs of someone who is homeless,” Funkhouser said.

Greene championed the creation of a clinic to provide primary-care services to the vulnerable population in order to better manage their health and keep them out of the emergency department. It’s not just a free clinic treating acute episodes, but rather a doctor’s office that can manage chronic illnesses for the uninsured and homeless, thanks to private donations and federal grant funding that Greene helped secure. What started out as one exam room has since grown into two locations that house services for primary care, optometry, dentistry, behavioral health and substance-abuse treatment. The clinic handles about 1,500 visits each month.

And though Greene is no longer picking up drug samples for the clinic and shuttling them around in the trunk of his car, Funkhouser said he remains a stalwart supporter of an integrated-care model that was largely his vision.

“Baptist has always been there for us, and continues to be one of our biggest supporters, really through Hugh’s influence,” she said.

Greene sees his role in the community as an extension of Baptist’s mission. “Our owners are the community represented by the board, and I believe with such strong conviction that we are here to take care of this community,” he said.

For Greene, that mission is also a ministry. Before Greene began his healthcare career, he earned a master’s in divinity and pastored a church for five years. It was during his chaplaincy training in a hospital when he realized that was the right environment for him. “The roots of my interest in healthcare were actually serving,” Greene said.

As a hospital CEO, Greene views access to care as his first priority.

In addition to establishing care for the homeless, Greene was one of the designers and also board chairman for JaxCare, a program created in 2003 to provide affordable healthcare for Jacksonville’s working uninsured. Greene convinced physicians to join the program, and with his encouragement, 900 offered their pro bono services for the 1,500-person pilot. He also used his influence with state legislators and regulators for changes to law that would expand the number of people eligible for coverage, and he traveled to Washington to push for funding that would support the program and establish an electronic health information exchange.

JaxCare, which officially closed its doors in 2008, has since transitioned into a part of We Care Jacksonville, a voluntary coalition of healthcare professionals and local faith groups dedicated to caring for the uninsured and medically underserved. Greene is one of six hospital CEOs who serve on the organization’s strategic development council.

“Hugh is a selfless leader in this state,” said Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association.

As a member of the state’s Low Income Pool Council—which makes decisions about the allocation of more than $1 billion in healthcare funding provided by local, state and federal governments—Rueben said Greene has at times agreed to forgo money for Baptist to let it go to help other hospitals in the region that provide a higher volume of care for the indigent and Medicaid populations. “He advocates for the greater goal and pitches in even when it isn’t going to benefit him directly,” Rueben said.

“Hugh is someone who has a pulse on the needs of the entire community,” said Connie Hodges, president of the United Way of Northeast Florida.

Greene has served on the board of directors for the United Way, chaired the board of trustees, and chaired the overall United Way campaign for the five-county area. Hodges said Greene hasn’t done a little of everything; he’s actually done a lot of everything.

“I see all of that work outside of the hospital as the fulfillment of our community social responsibility,” Greene said. “I think there’s a danger in thinking this is something I have an interest in doing. I see it as fundamental to who we are.”

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Source: Modern Healthcare, November 16, 2013