TRIBUNE Q & A – STEVE RALPH
Steve Ralph has been a leader at Huntington Hospital and a resident of San Marino for over 30 years. In fact, he moved to San Marino around the same time he went to work for our region’s community hospital. With an education and early career that criss-crossed the country, from Vermont to Minnesota to Arizona, Ralph settled in California in 1979 after taking a position as executive vice president of California Hospital, where he worked until he joined Huntington Hospital in 1984 as vice president, administration. In 1990, Ralph was named executive vice president before being appointed president and chief executive officer in 1995.
Steve and his wife, Sue, raised two boys in San Marino. Both graduated from San Marino High School, and both now reside with their families in Pasadena. Ralph recalled their childhood involved lots of local activities, from the South Pasadena-San Marino YMCA to advancing through the ranks in Boy Scouts. Steve is now a proud grandfather to two grandchildren.
One of the hallmarks of Ralph’s tenure as President and Chief Executive Officer at Huntington Memorial Hospital has been the growth and advancement of its clinical and community programs. Particularly rewarding has been the growth of annual support San Marino provides to bolster Huntington Hospital’s clinical and educational activities.
In 2003, Ralph helped lead a five-year, $100 million comprehensive campaign – the largest in Huntington Hospital’s history. Huntington exceeded the goal, raising a total of $103 million toward capital, program and endowment projects. And in 2008, again under Ralph’s leadership, the hospital’s campaign to expand the Emergency & Trauma Center raised $83 million toward an $80 million goal – the first time in the hospital’s history that a project has been fully funded by private support.
In addition to his work with Huntington Hospital, Ralph is involved with the American Hospital Association, the American College of Health Care Executives, the California Healthcare Association and the Healthcare Association of Southern California. He also has served as president of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, serves as a clinical preceptor for the University of Minnesota, and is involved in other local and community activities.
A leader at one of San Gabriel Valley’s most important institutions, The Tribune sat down with Ralph to discuss the latest in health care and what lies ahead as Huntington Memorial Hospital looks toward the next 125 years – and beyond.
San Marino Tribune: What originally drew you to health care? And why have you stayed involved with health care for nearly your entire career?
Steve Ralph: I grew up in a small town in Vermont. I studied business at the University of Vermont and spent my first few years in the financial world. My father, a local businessman, was on the board of directors of the local community hospital and understood the importance of a hospital to the community. Working in health care made sense for me because I wanted to use my education in business to help drive success in the much-needed assets of a community hospital. I believe a hospital’s success relies on the commitment and collaboration of many individuals. It’s the definition of a team effort. I am more excited today for the future of this hospital and what it means for the Los Angeles region than I have been at any point in my career. I fully appreciate the weight of the responsibility of building on the long legacy of this institution. Further, for me, living and working in the same community allows me to interact with the people and families that depend on Huntington through all phases of life.
SMT: What are you most proud of at Huntington Memorial Hospital that has occurred during your tenure?
Ralph: The majority of the time a patient is in the hospital is spent with our nurses. I am so proud of our nurses, and I am proud of the dedication and professionalism of our entire team that works tirelessly, day in and day out, to provide excellence in caring. This year we revised our hospital vision, and this speaks directly to the commitment we all have to improving health. Our vision is to be the leader in creating community well-being through world-class health care delivered with kindness and dignity. And I emphasize here kindness and dignity. Health care and hospitals are changing. We hear about it every day. It’s easy to get swept up in the technical side of things. But our amazing team here never forgets kindness and dignity. This kindness and dignity pays off in how those outside see the hospital as well. In addition to being granted Magnet status in 2011 and recertified last year, Huntington Hospital has been ranked nationally by U.S. News & World Report in two specialties, and was named the 8th best hospital in California. The Magnet status is particularly important to all of us. This designation is reserved for hospitals around the United States with the absolute top-performing nursing programs. I’m fortunate to see our nurses in action every day, all day, all night! Along the same lines, I’m proud that our people are proud to work at Huntington. The average tenure for employees here is incredibly long. Even though I’ve been with Huntington for more than thirty years, we have many employees that have been here much longer than me. That is a testament to the dedication and service to the community our employees feel.
SMT: What is the biggest challenge right now in American health care?
Ralph: The public’s knowledge about healthcare, including clinical advances and the role of technology, coupled with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Covered California, and people’s need to incorporate wellness and healthy habits into their everyday lives, is shifting the role of the hospital in a community. At Huntington, we want to be the center of wellness and healing – working with the community to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This obviously goes along with, and in addition to, our ongoing commitment to be the best in treating the sick and injured. At Huntington Hospital, our task remains as it has always been for almost 125 years – to provide excellent health care and compassionate service to each person by bringing together outstanding physicians, caring nurses, professional staff and advanced technologies. To this end, we have formed new partnerships with physicians and other organizations, and have invested significant dollars to broaden our focus beyond the walls of the hospital, so we can continue to make healthcare accessible and affordable for those who live and work in our community. As other hospitals have closed or eliminated various clinical services, we’ve expanded in areas like emergency and trauma and are now seeing even more patients coming to Huntington Hospital. I’m proud that we have been able to continue to improve in all areas of clinical service, from our maternal and pediatrics services to emergency care, palliative care, and mental health programs.
SMT: What sets you apart from other local health care facilities?
Ralph: The people who work every day at the hospital. It really is as simple as that. They make this place special. I mentioned the trauma center, and its importance to the community can’t be stressed enough. We’re also renowned for our programs in neurosciences, cardiovascular services and cancer care. We’re an active teaching hospital with graduate medical education programs in internal medicine and general surgery, not to mention the programs in nursing and so many other disciplines. We are educating and training the next generation. Consistent with our mission, we provide millions of dollars annually in charity care, benefits for vulnerable populations, health research, education and training and support programs that may otherwise be absent from the community. These programs include geriatric psychiatric services as well as a children’s asthma management program.
SMT: How does Huntington Memorial Hospital view itself in regards to its relationship to the community?
Ralph: Historically, Huntington Hospital has always depended on the community — for many different types of support. Community involvement allows us not just to maintain, but to grow in terms of clinical excellence. In fact, as a nonprofit hospital, philanthropy is such a critical source of capital funding. Funds raised from our community help us meet the needs of our community today and for years to come. And as the community gets involved, they feel a sense of ownership…that this is their hospital. Our goal is to go above and beyond every day for every patient.