Dr. Edgar Staren is president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America — Western Regional Medical Center.
How is being CEO of CTCA different than being CEO of a more traditional company?
I end up having a different ability to empower my stakeholders (employees). We believe in our value, which is we are hopeful, we are empowering, we are responsive, we are ethical, we a re innovative and we are compassionate, and I believe that the empowerment aspect as a CEO means that I’m allowed to encourage my stakeholders to do everything they can to take care of our patients, which are our customers
What qualities do you think an effective CEO has to have in any business?
They need to have leadership, which is manifested by a dedication to personify the mission, vision, values, and the foundation upon which the organization is based. I believe that they need to have absolute integrity. Without that, they are simply not going to be trusted or admired and respected by their stakeholders. Particularly in the healthcare industry, I believe they need to be servant leaders. They need to be out there demonstrating the type of service to the customers that they would want to be demonstrating among all the stakeholders.
What strengths make you an effective CEO at CTCA?
I’ve had a personal tragedy that I believe turned into a professional blessing in that I am a cancer survivor myself. It has allowed me to understand where our patients come from and the things that are of value to them. That has been more educational for me than any of the schooling or mentoring that I had prior to that point.
What is the biggest challenge for the employees at CTCA?
It’s hard to be a CTCA stakeholder. We try and provide mother standard of care. If Mom’s ill, that becomes emotionally tough. We become close to our patients; we care about them dearly; we feel like they are family. And to go to those lengths, to go to those extremes that you go through to be able to take care of a patient like it’s mom, can be hard. On the other side of the coin, it is so gratifying to know that you are making a difference in someone’s life. I feel very privileged to be doing important work, work that I know makes a difference and I’m paid a salary for doing so. What a privilege.
What advice would you give to someone who wants a leadership role in the healthcare industry?
Be true to your mission, vision, and values. Personify those as a leader. Recognize that much of what you do is not in the words that are spoken, but in the actions that you take. I think that reflects that whole philosophy of servant leadership and if you end up being an exemplary servant leader, then you are likely to be successful in the position.
If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you like to be doing?
I can’t imagine doing anything other than what I’m doing right now. I feel privileged.