Hospital CEO retires after two decades at the helm
There are few people who’ve had longer or more successful runs in Mammoth Lakes than outgoing Mammoth Hospital CEO Gary Myers.
Myers has served two stints as the Hospital’s CEO, totaling two decades.
The second-time around, he was supposed to fill in for six weeks while then-CEO Gary Boyd took care of some health issues.
But Mr. Boyd was never able to return to work, and Gary Myers’s six week interim assignment turned into six years.
For comparison’s sake, the average Hospital CEO’s tenure is three years.
Since 1995, when Myers first took the helm, the Southern Mono Hospital District has increased its gross annual revenues by a factor of 16.
According to Myers, the District had about $7 million in revenues and employed approximately 70 people in 1995.
Today, the Hospital District has gross revenues of $111 million and employs ~400.
Myers arrived in Mammoth with his wife Karilyn in 1981.
The couple met in graduate school at Stanford University, where both were enrolled in the P.T. (Physical Therapy) school.
After a few years together in practice at a clinic in Portland, Oregon, the couple decided to take a year off. In Mammoth.
Both took various odd jobs.
Gary framed houses, bartended at the Chart House and cooked at Shogun Restaurant.
Karilyn worked at Kittredge Sports in addition to waiting tables, also at Shogun.
But hard as they tried to drop out, Mammoth is the sort of town that reels you in. “There was no P.T. here [at the time],” explained Myers, “so when they found out we were legit … we started to do these impromptu consults with friends.”
Eventually, the Myers’ rented a room in a trailer on the hospital campus to see clients. And once two patients a day turned into 10 patients a day, they never looked back.
So how does a guy with a scientific background but no particular administrative background transform himself into becoming a CEO?
As Myers says, “Small towns afford unique opportunities.”
In the 1980s and into the ‘90s, the Myers’ practice thrived. They joined a group of physicians to build the first office building on the Hospital campus, and in 1992, Myers filled a slot on the Southern Mono Healthcare District Board of Directors.
As Myers said, “I joined the Board because I wanted to be involved in helping chart the Hospital’s future direction.”
District had a management contract with Centinela Hospital, but it was widely assumed Centinela had no intention of renewing the lease.
According to a history posted on Mammoth Hospital’s website, “With only a 15% market share for inpatient hospital admissions in Mono County, Centinela predicted Mammoth Hospital would go under in just a few years.”
Predictions aside, the Southern Mono Hospital District Board, which was chaired by Attorney Rick Liebersbach at the time, needed to prepare for Centinela’s departure. It needed a CEO.
“We hired a search firm,” explained Liebersbach. “It was a nationwide search. There were a number of qualified candidates. We selected a guy, he accepted, and we informed the other [finalists] of our decision.”
“About two weeks later, I get a call. It turned out the person we selected had serious medical issues and could not take the job. We were back to square one.”
But the second time around, Liebersbach and fellow board member Lloyd Mokler looked at it a little differently. Both observed that Mr. Myers had been going above and beyond when it came to volunteering his time as a board member – at that time, he was helping out with computer issues.
“He had no experience running a hospital,” acknowledged Liebersbach, but he had huge local experience and the respect of hospital staff.”
So Liebersbach and Mokler asked Myers to apply for the job, which he did.
The headhunting firm wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. It believed Myers resume didn’t compare with the other candidates.
Liebersbach and Mokler replied, “He’s on the final interview list, or you don’t get paid.”
Sure, they put him on the final list, chuckled Liebersbach. But they conveniently forgot to inform him. Nice attempted sandbag. Myers was told the night before about the interview.
And proceeded to kill it.
“He was arms and legs above everybody else,” recalls Liebersbach, “particularly his grasp of running a business.”
The Board hired Myers over the search firm’s recommendation.
And as Liebersbach says, Myers immediately did two things that really put the District on solid footing.
First, he successfully negotiated with health insurance companies to be part of their in-service networks, so the Hospital could treat (and charge) patients who came in versus stabilizing them and sending them off to their hometown hospitals.
As Myers explains, “If we were just here for our local community, we would not do well. It’s the visitors, with their short stays and high utilization episodes (i.e. ski injuries) who pay the bills.
Orthopedics is the rainmaker.”
A second key, said Liebersbach, to Myers’ success was in writing grants and attracting capital.
A few leadership concepts which Myers has embraced over the years:
-Keep everyone focused on the mission. Check egos at the door, get along and put patients first. It’s a service business …. if people buy in to the mission, they feel ownership in what’s created and there’s a greater chance of success.
-Strong management teams are critical. Myers cited the contributions of CFO Melanie Van Winkle, CIO Mark Lind, Chief Nursing Officer Kathleen Alo and Chief Medical Officer Craig Burrows.
-When it comes to personnel, particularly personnel who may be in a slump, “you have to get the whole story. If people at their core are good at what they do, a slump by definition is temporary. The first thing you have to do is look under the hood [and discover the root cause].”
As he ponders retirement, Gary looks forward to revisiting some hobbies (like woodworking, playing guitar) and travel.
He has no intention of moving elsewhere.
Both his daughters are married. His daughter Jackie lives in the Bay Area and works as an apparel designer for Volcom. She is married to Wes Smith (son of Tom Smith).
Daughter Jen McMahon followed in her mother’s footsteps and is a licensed Physical Therapist.
She lives locally with her husband Mike, who serves as the Hospital’s Orthopedics and General Surgery manager.