Executive Profile: Dr. Ravi Chari

Nashville Business Journal
Feb 11, 2011

Dr. Ravi Chari became chief medical officer of HCA’s TriStar Health System in January, a role he previously held at Centennial Medical Center. He cites his decision to pursue an MBA at Owen Graduate School of Management while practicing medicine at Vanderbilt as a breakthrough moment for his career.

On applying business sense to medicine, the importance of listening well, his love of baseball and dream of pitching for the Yankees.


What is the most outside-of-the-box idea you have ever had in your professional career? Going to get my MBA. I did that from 2006 to 2007 at the Owen graduate school at Vanderbilt University. At that time, I was actually still a professor and chief of transplantation at Vanderbilt, so it was challenging to do the two, but it turned out to be a very good thing. It was a way for people to see me beyond a physician or surgeon in terms of the ability to impact medicine from a business standpoint.

What was the result? Someone had told me, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’ and it was a good chance to learn about an area that I had not known too much about it. It also gave me the opportunity to take on an administrative role at Centennial in 2008 after I graduated and move away from clinical medicine into the administrative side of health care.
What makes your organization stand out? The first one that comes to mind is the people. The people in the company are committed; they’re hard-working with a lot of integrity. The other thing, more from a business standpoint, is our locations in terms of hospital-based assets. We’re in the communities where we serve the people right there at their door.

What does your organization have in the works for 2011? With health care reform and a lot of the changes going on, we’re really trying to position ourselves to continue to be a leader in cost-efficient, quality health care.

What word describes your leadership style? Collaborative. Spending time to engage all the stakeholders in any decision process and help work with them toward a solution that creates value for everybody involved.

Goal yet to be achieved? Help TriStar and HCA be the first name people think of when they think of the best health care in the markets we serve.

Professional pet peeve? Selfish leaders who are more committed to their own success than the organization or the people they lead.

Favorite hobbies?
I spend a lot of time practicing baseball with my son.
You’ve just been given $100,000 to donate to charity. Where would you give it? I’d keep it locally and give money to the Hospital Hospitality House of Nashville. It’s a real venue for patients’ families to come in and stay close during challenging times.

What keeps you up at night? My dog in a thunderstorm.

What do you do to relieve stress? Two things: I run and I also do yoga.

What is the simplest thing you never learned to do? Use a drive-thru lane at a bank. I still go in, or I’ll walk in to use an ATM.

Pets? A chocolate lab named Mickey, named after Mickey Mouse. It’s actually my son’s dog.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? The gift of love in many forms.

Person outside of your family you would most like to spend time with on an island? Michael DeBakey. He was an innovative cardiac surgeon leader who really defined the speciality of vascular and cardiac surgery.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? David C. Sabiston. He was the chairman of surgery at Duke University where I trained in surgery. He really instilled the values of hard work, loyalty and attention to detail which are essential to the practice of medicine.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire? I would work with the staff to whom that person would be working with or overseeing and ask them for their input and have them actually decide.

Organization or company other than your own that you most admire? Johnson & Johnson. I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with Bill Weldon, who is their CEO, a number of years ago. The integrity and mission and values of Johnson & Johnson are really something that he follows.

What would you like to cross off your “bucket list” next? Either visiting all the major league ball parks or attending the College World Series.

What line of work would you pursue if you couldn’t work in your present one?
A baseball field or stadium grounds keeper.

What is there about you that people would be surprised to learn? I grew up in Canada and helped start a water ski club.

What skill would you most like to improve?
Listening and patience.

Biggest professional mistake and how you overcame it? It was maybe more of a mind set. For a long time there was almost a failure to acknowledge the importance of the political process in decision making. Sometimes as a physician you’re in the mind set of the quest for truth and the awareness that there always is a right answer. But in reality, there are often many points of view. Acknowledging many points of view is a necessary part of the process.

What is the one behavior or trait that most often derails leaders’ careers? One where you forget about the group you’re leading or you forget to listen to the people you lead.

They’re making a movie of your life. Is it a drama or comedy and who plays you? Comedy. Steve Carrell.

If you could live a double life, the other would be: Major league baseball starting pitcher. This might be too revealing, and I could create a lot of enemies, but it would be for the Yankees.

About Ravi Chari
Age: 45
Title: Chief medical officer
Company: HCA’s TriStar Health System
Address: 110 Winners Circle, Brentwood 37027
Web: www.TriStarHealth.com
Employees: 10,000
Most recently read book: “The 90-Second Rule” by Jim Fannin
Favorite music artist: Zac Brown Band, Rascal Flatts, Nickelback and Linkin Park
Education: University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, Duke University, University of Toronto, Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt
Community involvement: 2010 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk executive committee member