Joanna Conley, MBA, FACHE
Chief Executive Officer
TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center
A childhood illness led Joanna Conley to decide on a healthcare career. When it came time for college, the California native moved across the country to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"I knew I wanted to be in healthcare, but I wasn't certain what area I wanted to go into, and UNC offered every program I might consider," she explained. By her sophomore year, she recognized healthcare administration was where she was meant to make a difference for patients.
"I have had the opportunity to give back to my community, improve patient care, and grow services through my role as a hospital administrator," Conley said. "This career has provided me a unique opportunity to help support the community in which I live, as well as be a part of the ever-changing healthcare dynamic."
After graduation, Conley moved to Asheville, N.C., where she met one of her early mentors. "The first CEO I worked with, Bob Burgin at Mission Health, shared many life lessons that he had learned over his career. I had the opportunity to work with him as an administrative resident during his last year before retiring," she said of having access to a lifetime of experience as she was launching her own career.
After several years working with Mission Health in strategic planning, Conley moved to Nashville for graduate school at Vanderbilt where she earned her MBA with concentrations in healthcare, operations and finance. After graduation, she joined HCA's chief operating officer development program and soon moved into leadership roles at two hospitals in Kissimmee, Fla.
After starting as associate chief operating officer at Osceola Regional Medical Center, Conley accepted a position as chief operating officer of Poinciana Medical Center, which was still in the planning stages at the time. Within a year, she was named CEO of the new HCA facility.
"We built a new hospital to serve a community that previously had no hospital services in the area," she said. "It was a unique opportunity that very few hospital administrators have. It was challenging but exciting at the same time."
From that experience, Conley said she learned an important lesson: "Don't be afraid to take risks ... but always have a plan." Know the resources and tools that are available to support you, she continued, and don't be afraid to access that support. "That's where I learned the value of being part of a company like HCA," she added.
A little more than a year ago, Conley was presented with the opportunity to return to Nashville to take the helm at TriStar Southern Hills. With the area booming, the medical campus continues to grow and expand service lines. Recently, the hospital applied for a certificate of need to build a freestanding Emergency Department in Antioch to meet community needs.
While the ever-changing healthcare landscape provides a challenge, it also makes the work exhilarating. "No two days are ever the same, and we adapt constantly. It is very exciting for me to be involved in such a unique industry, and I enjoy the rapidly changing environment," she said.
Her favorite part of the day, however, is interacting with patients and staff. "It gives me a sense of purpose in the work I do and helps support our team. I love rounding, especially on the weekends, when I can talk with staff about their days and help address any issues that arise."
Conley also loves the friendly, encouraging, family-oriented culture that is at the heart of Southern Hills. "We do great work, and we work hard ... but it's also important that we have time for our families and hobbies outside of work," she said. "It's important to me as a senior leader to model a good work/life balance," she continued.
For Conley, being outdoors provides a counterbalance to hectic workdays. "Since I moved to Nashville last year with my family, we've been exploring the Warner Parks and Radnor Lake. We look forward to finding new trails in Tennessee," she said of a favorite pastime she shares with her husband and young son.
With her energy refueled, Conley is once again ready to tackle the daily challenges of healthcare administration. "I would like to continue to grow services, increase access to care for patients and continue to improve quality," she said of her goals. "TriStar Southern Hills is a great hospital, and I can only hope to add to that legacy," she concluded.