Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this post, Gyasi Chisley has taken a position with United Healthcare.
Gyasi C. Chisley, CEO of Methodist Healthcare North and Senior VP of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, recently shared thoughts about physician integration and healthcare change with Witt & Wisdom. Below, in part two of our Q&A, we discuss how mentoring influenced Chisley’s career and the advice he gives to those he mentors or leads now.
Q: Upon winning an Up & Comer Award in 2014, you explained to Modern Healthcare that relationships and mentoring are key drivers of your success. How did you find your first mentor and what impact did that relationship have on your career vision?
Chisley: I stand on the shoulders of so many great men and women, and the success I’ve had in my career is completely attributed to them. They made sure to tell me when I made mistakes and had no qualms about doing so, and they also ensured that they gave me constructive feedback and criticism when the time was right.
My first mentor was a gentleman by the name of Dr. William Finlayson. He is 91 years old now and is a retired OBGYN physician. I met him when I was in high school, and he really induced my fervor for medicine, for healthcare, and for developing a sound work ethic. We met through a program being offered at the Boys & Girls Club where he was volunteered and served on the board, not knowing I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. He was instrumental in not only in my career, but in my life.
He gave me my first job as an environmental services technician – which is essentially a janitor – in the hospital where he worked, and there I started to look at opportunities to engage patients and families. I cleaned floors, I dusted furniture . . . and it helped me become detail-oriented and develop a sound mind for operations.
Mark Twain writes that the two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day that you find out why. When I started working in healthcare, I immediately knew I was born to work in a in this industry, to shape the culture and perspectives, to create efficiencies in the operations, and ultimately birth innovation into the social construct within healthcare. And it’s a credit to my very first mentor.
Q: Are you still involved with the Boys & Girls Club where you met your first mentor?
Chisley: Yes, I serve on the board now. So I guess I’ve come full circle. I have three mentees through that organization . . . and seven total including undergrad, graduate students, and early/mid-careerists.
Q: What advice do you give those mentees?
Chisley: I’ve made a concerted effort to start telling my story more, how and why I’ve gotten into healthcare — not to entice people to go into healthcare per se, but so my mentees know that they have options, and that they can make mistakes and still be a success.
For those who are about to start their careers, or currently in undergraduate/graduate school, what I try to promote to my mentees is to tell their stories, try to apply their real world life experiences to what they’re learning in the classroom, and to be active participants in their educations. I feel you can get some sound training in the classroom, but you become educated outside of it; I feel leadership is born through that education and finding your voice. Everyone has it . . . it’s just everyone does not know how to express it.
Q: For young professionals just starting out in healthcare, what advice would you give them?
- Be a player-coach. Be someone who has the ability to be a visionary and lead, but also someone who’s not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the work with the associates.
- Earn respect; become highly regarded amongst physicians/clinicians. Healthcare no longer operates in silos where administration and physicians function separately until there’s a problem; physicians, administrators, and communities are going to have to work together. The best methods for earning respect are to be transparent, pursue integrity, and honor your commitments.
- Understand the new paradigm for payers. For the commercially insured, for Medicaid, for Medicare, it’s changing; it’s so transient at this point. Understanding the laws, the regulations, the rules, is going to be huge in the future. Find ways to partner.
- Follow your gut and understand the culture. Culture trumps strategy every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Studying and knowing the culture of any organization will help propel and compel you to success much quicker than if you don’t understand the culture. That relates to the organizational politics, community, professional organizations, and life as a whole.
To this day, Chisley stays in close contact with his first mentor, and has forged new relationships such as a connection with Kim Byas, a regional executive at the American Hospital Association, who nominated him for an Up & Comer award. Mentorship is a source of inspiration, constructive criticism, and advancement in healthcare and in any field. Chisley exemplifies the impact those relationships can have on a career, especially at the onset, and continues to draw from them as he emboldens himself and his team at Methodist.