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Growing a successful health system

por Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | March 04, 2022
Richard Lehmuth
From the March 2022 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

HCB News: Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare?
Richard Lehmuth: Like many people who work in health administration, I started out by wanting to be a doctor. I was born premature and had spent a lot of time in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In college, I took pre-med courses, but the trajectory of my career changed when I started working for an endocrinologist. She had lost her sight and hired me to read journal articles and other materials out loud for her. As we got to know each other, she provided sage advice on being a physician and I am forever grateful for her counsel.

I took my education in a different direction and during my junior year worked in the writing lab helping another student who was pursuing a Master of Healthcare Administration degree. I fell in love with his homework. It had not occurred to me that there was a business side to healthcare, and I saw it as a path to working in an industry I loved.

HCB News: What learnings did you take with you from your work with other CSOs?
RL: At SSM Health, I worked under a brilliant strategy executive who taught me so much about the science of strategy. Under his strategic direction, the health system won a major national quality award, and he helped me establish and hone my craft. Our team led the regional strategy for the larger system.

During my time at OhioHealth, our work in strategy was at the top of the funnel, leading strategy efforts for the entire system while being able to shape leaders’ points of view. The focus was on building and growing businesses, and ensuring our plans were well-executed. That focus on execution provided another important building block for my career.

What I learned along the way was that the chance to build new businesses was the most exciting part of my work. I took a lot of pride in helping these health systems get bigger and become more successful. That’s the work I love most at Phoenix Children’s.

HCB News: Can you tell us what your career has been like up to this point?
RL: When I first started my career, I worked on the finance side of healthcare. This seemed like a natural fit for me because I excel at math. What I learned over the course of 10 years was that I wanted to solve bigger, more complicated problems. It wasn’t that finance was easy — not at all — it’s that my strengths and interests are in pulling apart complex problems and looking for creative solutions.

At the time, I was working at SSM Health in the Midwest. The health system had just hired a chief strategy officer. She liked the way I approached problems and gave me a great deal of latitude in my work, even creating a role for me that didn’t yet exist. Her mentorship and support really set the stage for my career long-term.

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