Culture And Leadership With Former CEO Of Virtua Health; Rich Miller

Johnathan Gryzbowski

December 4, 2018

Rich Miller

Rich Miller, served as the CEO and President of Virtua Health. until December 31, 2017 after leading the organization for over 21 years. Where he then retired. Rich has led the way for Virtua to transition from a group of community hospitals into a highly-respected regional healthcare provider and mind you one of the larger on the east coast.

He’s served as Chairman of the March of Dimes. He served as chairman of the Arthritis Association. If I were to list all of his accomplishments and awards he’s won, we’d be here for another hour. It’s incredible.

I can’t think of a better person to talk about leadership and company culture than Rich.

After talking to Rich for over an hour talking our about business, life, faith, family. You really get an idea of what it takes to be a leader and why Virtua made the right decision to bring Rich on as their CEO over 20 years ago. 

A few takeaways from the conversation is when we talked about how one day Rich had his head down while he was walking around the office. There wasn’t a particular reason why his head was down, but one of his employees came up to him and asked him if he was ok. 

For me, that was a gut check and a realization that no matter what mood you are in, you have to perform at the highest level possible. That one misstep can lead others to feeling insecure about their job or you may pass that energy onto others within your executive team. Everyone needs to have that comfort knowing everything is ok. 

Another takeaway was a conversation that didn’t air, but felt the need to share it. 

I recorded this in a conference room and being that I’m an Apple user, I forgot to get the dongle for the microphone that connects to my computer. So I went to grab it, took about 4 minutes total and when I came back. Rich was enjoying his life, by himself. He wasn’t on his phone. He was focused and was living in the moment. 

We get so hung up on social media and it’s inspiring to see a man of his character being able to just be present. Thank you Rich for this awesome interview. I hope all of you enjoy it as well.

Why you’re the most qualified to talk today about healthcare and even company culture?

“When people ask me; What are you most proud of in 22 years of growing a health system from a 400 million enterprise to a 1.3 billion enterprise… Is it a building of a hospital? Is it building a physician group? Is it building surgery centers?

My answer is no.

It’s building a culture of great people. I had 10,000 people that worked with me at Virtua, and building a secure place and a great work environment for people to come to work every day. So if you asked me and people have asked me that, in post-retirement, that’s what I will say…

I think my feeling for people in general go back to when I was a closer to your age, Johnathan. I was 21. I was a senior in Mount St Mary’s University of Maryland and I was in a terrible automobile accident. So, um, I, I actually was, um, fell asleep at the wheel of my books wagon beetle and hit a bridge abutment and um, actually, um, went through healthcare. Uh, I was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Unit. I had total renal failure and I was on a ventilator and basically wasn’t supposed to get through that. It was a very difficult time and I, I did come through it through the other side and, uh, uh, through some great health professionals and uh, I’m a faithful guy. So, you know, God helped me realize that I had a future and that was part of my life.

And in part of what I think a sustained me that period of time, uh, so, um, you know, I had at that time I was addicted to percocet through the accident, uh, the opioid addiction crisis. Today’s a big one. It’s real. And I had to come through that piece of intuit each 21. So as I started my life that down the path of my life, my career actually started as a volunteer at Betty Bacharach home for children in Longport, New Jersey. And I was blessed to be there because these were children that had many, many physical issues in their life, whether it was cystic fibrosis or other types of disease, but you wouldn’t know it from seeing these kids every day. They were happy, they were smiling. I felt sorry for myself post accident that these kids didn’t. So it kind of launched me into a different mindset of, you know, I’m building a career, building a family, um, and, but also realizing that it’s bigger than career.

Life is bigger than career. I was given an opportunity to survive a terrible ordeal and it was time to give back. So as I grew in my career, it was always about people around me and I got to enjoy the simpler things in life. When you go through that, you know, when you’re on dialysis, a glass of water’s important. When you’re walking around and, and on a cane a and you’re outside a. We joked earlier about a young people today with headphones in their ears all the time, you know, not me because I look at nature and things around me. And when you don’t have that and you’re in a shock trauma unit, that’s totally a cordoned off from society, you realize that, you know, this is important stuff and it’s a blessing to be outside. So I learned at a young age, at 21 that life took on a different meaning for me and I had different challenges ahead of me and when I, um, when I, when I did well that I would share that with others and I always tell people in life when you do well, uh, and there’s nothing wrong with doing well.

It’s, it’s how you get back is the important part of doing well. So that’s my mantra in life and I, and I did it with my employees and I don’t deal with, generally speaking of charity in life. It’s important. It’s amazing.”