Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gary R. Ulicny, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Shepherd Center

Today’s guest is Dr. Gary Ulicny, the President and CEO of the Shepherd Center. The Shepherd Center is a 152-bed not-for-profit specialty hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The Center serves persons with spinal cord injuries, acquired brain injuries and a variety of neuromuscular diseases. Services include intensive care, acute medical, acute rehabilitation, post acute and outpatient services. The Shepherd Center operates with a budget of over $190 million and over 1,400 employees.  During Gary’s 22-year tenure, the Shepherd Center was ranked one of the best rehabilitation hospitals in the nation for 14 years by US News & World Report, and is the largest hospital of its kind in the country.

In this podcast we talk about Gary’s career, starting with his early interest in special education, his move into psychology, and ultimately into rehabilitation medicine, with a detour early on as a commercial fisherman. 

I really enjoyed my conversation with Gary and I think early careerists can learn a lot from this wide-ranging conversation. I have produced two versions of this podcast - an extended version of the interview that includes our complete conversation and an abridged version. 

Links to the Podcast:
Extended version:
Abridged version:

Interview transcript is available here.

Podcast Outline (this timeline refers to the extended version)

Time       Topic
0:02:12 coming to special education at UNC
0:05:01 working with people with developmental disabilities
0:06:17 a detour into travel and commercial fishing
0:09:16 returning to graduate school courtesy of a water moccasin
0:10:44 Apalachian State and Western Carolina Center
0:12:15 Kansas State, Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior
0:18:22 Working in Supported Employment
0:19:22 Reflecting on early leadership experiences
0:22:06 Learning Services - Beginning in Traumatic Brain Injury
0:24:16 what is "applied behavior analysis"
0:25:01 acquired brain injury vs. congenital intellectual disability
0:27:45 Learning Services - Program director to Executive Director
0:28:59 establishing credibility with clinical coleagues
0:30:12 Wake Hospital System - Director of Rehabilitation Services
0:32:27 how does rehab services fit into the continuum of care?
0:33:19 Responsibilities as the director
0:34:01 Coming to Shepherd Center as President and CEO
0:36:10 why Shepherd? Why was he right for Shepherd?
0:38:32 Desensitization and lessons from being part of the "penis patrol"
0:40:30 changing the culture at Shepherd
0:42:22 Implementing Quint Studer's "Hardwiring Excellence" principles
0:45:39 culture of excellence
0:46:50 about the Shepherd Center
0:49:31 How do patients come to Shepherd?
0:51:25 the Shepherd Medical Staff
0:52:43 Shepherd Center research program
0:53:59 payer mix
0:55:22 average length of stay
0:56:04 Shepherd's service lines
0:57:46 leadership structure
0:59:21 strategy and decisions about growth
1:01:09 making capital expenditure decisions
1:02:20 sustaining culture during growth
1:04:20 how has the strategy process evolved over 22 years?
1:07:43 impact of health reform and the ACA
1:08:26 the role of the Board
1:10:49 quality and process improvement
1:12:15 how do people come to be on the board
1:13:22 leadership development at Shepherd
1:14:35 succession planning
1:17:05 separating work and home - worklife balance
1:19:11 advice to his past self - be a better listener
1:20:13 what was most surprising about role of CEO
1:22:03 leaderhsip philosophy
1:24:00 where did he learn his leadership skills?
1:24:56 leaderhsip lessons the hard way
1:25:56 what does he look for when hiring leaders?
1:26:53 how does he ensure leaders are using data to drive decisions
1:27:51 mentors and mentorship
1:29:54 the importance of giving good feedback
1:33:31 "connect the dots"
1:34:21 formal mentorship program
1:35:01 book recommendations
1:36:53 reflections on a career

Links to Topics Discussed

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