Corner Office: Swedish CEO Dr. Guy Hudson on what swimming taught him about slowing down

Since the start of his healthcare career, Guy Hudson, MD, has had a desire to serve people in need, and that passion continues to stay with him in his role as CEO of Seattle-based Swedish Health Services. 

Dr. Hudson took the helm of Swedish in June 2017 after serving as interim CEO. 

Before becoming interim CEO, he practiced at the health system as a pediatric urologic surgeon and served as medical director of Swedish Pediatric Specialty Care. He also was executive medical director of pediatrics and pediatric specialties at Swedish Medical Center.

Here, Mr. Hanners answers Becker’s seven Corner Office questions.

Editor’s Note: Responses have been lightly edited.

Question: What piqued your interest in healthcare?

Dr. Guy Hudson: One of the most important things that makes us human beings is the need and desire to work and serve others. I was drawn to healthcare because that service to others has always drawn me in to help those in need. I grew up in a small town in Indiana where the entire community was served by one hospital. It really taught me the importance of how people center communities around health and healthcare and how hospitals serve the needs of the community so they can thrive and prosper. That service aspect and mindset has been something I have carried with me throughout my career.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Seattle?

GH: It is the best place to work and the best place to raise a family. The Pacific Northwest is not only surrounded by two mountain chains and some of the best activity spots out there for you to get out and about, but it also is a hub for tech and innovation, industry, diversity and a group of businesses and talented people that make it not only a joy to work, but also to get out and about and enjoy the scene around you. 

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry’s problems overnight, which would it be?

GH: I would eliminate health disparities and inequities. All people deserve access to care and care that represents them as an individual regardless of their ability to pay. And that gets down into payment models, it gets down into barriers. But really, if our goal is to solve the health disparities and inequities question, then we need to solve a lot of the other issues with healthcare as well. Human beings are designed to help one another, and this breaks down all the barriers in front of us if we put this as a priority into healthcare. 

Q: What is your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

GH: I think the idea of service does not stop necessarily with the job. I volunteer in my own organization and volunteer with time outside the organization because I like staying connected with people. It helps not only with leadership talents, but I also find it engages me and energizes me to keep going with everything we do. I am a pediatric urologic surgeon by training. Given the fact I have retired from clinical practice to focus on this job, my philosophy is if I can’t care for babies in the clinical scenario, at least I can hold them. So, I volunteer in our neonatal intensive care unit as a cuddler. There are always ways to connect to people, and this is one of them that gives me great joy. 

Q: How do you revitalize yourself?

GH: As an ex-collegiate athlete, staying physically active has been a mainstay of my routine for decades. Nowadays you have to keep it simple, so my activity mainly resides around the Peloton and setting goals for myself around that because it’s something I can do at home, as well as spending time with family. I’ve been able to reconnect with my kids in so many ways, given the fact they’re both doing homeschooling right now. One’s a sophomore in college, and the other’s a senior in high school. And on days when I work from home and they are engaged in their online courses, it makes for an interesting household. But it also allows us to reengage and stay connected in so many more ways. 

Q: What is one piece of advice that you remember most clearly?

GH: Engage in lifelong learning and be a student of discovery. Self-investment and professional development should be something all of us as professionals and as people look to how we continue down our path of life. As everything changes around us, we adapt to those changes, so reading and studying and investing in oneself is a continual, lifelong process. That meant, for me, volunteer for a lot of things you don’t necessarily understand or things that scare you. As I got into my journey with leadership and into the C-suite, there have been more things that I volunteered for to learn, and areas where I’ve looked at where can I further my education and development to be the most effective at my job. 

Also, in college I swam for the now deceased James “Doc” Counsilman, one of the greatest swimming coaches of all time. And I remember specifically he was one of the first in the country to film his athletes in training because he was one of the biggest advocates of technique and swimming stoke to be faster and succeed. I remember being filmed by him when I was a sophomore in college, and the thing that he said was, “I’m going to make some tweak to your stroke, but keep in mind that as you learn and adapt with the techniques and the changes I’m going to make, you’re actually going to go slower initially. But over time, you’ll notice you’ll go much faster.” And indeed, it took six months to a year to work through those changes, but after that, I was able to be much more successful and swam much faster times and was able to compete on a higher level. The learnings from that was sometimes you must slow down a little and learn and adapt before you can accelerate. So be patient and be willing to learn and adapt to what is around you. 

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at Swedish?

GH: The 13,000 caregivers that I have the privilege of working with every day are, in my opinion, the greatest people that I’ve ever had the privilege to be associated with. We are a culture centered on our values and centered on service, and we perpetuate the servant leadership mindset of, “We are all in this together.” We’re people helping people on a daily basis. When we all work together and we all continue to move forward, then we can be exceedingly successful and serve our communities, because our communities rely on us. 


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