February 18, 2002
Evergreen's new CEO puts people first
by Deborah Stone
Woodinville will soon be the home of Evergreen Healthcare's new CEO, Steven Brown. Brown, having recently come from the East Coast to assume his position, was searching to buy a home in a community close to Evergreen. "After driving around the area, I knew immediately that I wanted to make Woodinville my home," explains Brown. "It had such a nice feel to it and I liked the way it was laid out, with lots of trees. Plus, most importantly, my wife Mary was thrilled about it when she came out to visit."
Brown's excitement is not limited to Woodinville, rather it spills over in his attitude toward his new job and the Evergreen community. He is overjoyed to be a part of what he terms "a hospital with high touch and high tech," one that focuses on personalized, humanistic care and that uses the best available cutting-edge medical technology.
Brown, a healthcare administrator with over 25 years of experience, came to Evergreen from Inova Health System, a not-for-profit health care system based in Northern Virginia where he served as system vice president and as chief executive officer for a 656-bed campus which included Inova Fairfax Hospital and Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children.
His long relationship with the healthcare industry began at the age of 15, when he took his first job as a dishwasher in a hospital cafeteria in Pennsylvania, where he was raised.
"I've always worked in a hospital," explains Brown, "so I've never known any other environment. I knew early on that I wanted to do something in healthcare because it is a profession that involves creating relationships with people and I am first and foremost a people person."
After graduating from college in biology and natural science, Brown went on to do a short stint as a physical therapist assistant, where he met his wife-to-be, Mary. She convinced him that he had more to offer and that's when he began pursuing hospital administration.
"I really felt I was suited for this," says Brown, "because I realized that I wasn't clinically oriented. Actually, I can't stand the sight of blood! Hospital administration was sort of a calling for me. I wanted to do something to make a difference, and to this day it is still very important for me to feel that I am part of a 'family' that makes a difference in a community."
Brown went on to do graduate work at Penn State, receiving his masters in healthcare services administration two years later. As part of his graduate work, he did an internship at Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., and later was hired as assistant director for ambulatory services at the hospital.
His career path led him to Akron General Medical Center in Akron, Ohio, where he spent five years as vice president of operations.
In 1984 he was hired by Inova Health System to be the administrator of Commonwealth Hospital, which later became Fair Oaks Hospital, in Fairfax, Va.
For 15 years he served as the CEO of the facility, and in 1999 he became the CEO at Fairfax Hospital, known for its Level 1 trauma center, state-of-the-art obstetrics and cardiac specialization.
His decision to apply for the position at Evergreen came about suddenly, but in analyzing his reasons to seek a change, he says, "I knew inside that I was looking for more work-life balance because these elements had gotten out of whack for me. I was attracted to Evergreen because of its strong sense of community, which I felt was missing at Fairfax.
"People not only care for patients here, but they care about them, which is a whole new level of care. This personal touch really is important to me. I knew I wanted to be in a place that focused on these personal elements."
After visiting Evergreen for interviews, Brown was impressed with its state-of-the-art technology and with the warmth, intelligence and vision of the people he met. He also enjoyed the Pacific Northwest environment and the casual feel to its society. "People here take the time to get to know you," explains Brown. "They are more laid back and focus on balancing their work-life elements. Back east, the stress level is high and people are always in a rush. They're highly mobile, highly ambitious and highly aggressive in their approach, which doesn't leave much room for the personal elements."
Brown hopes to spend the rest of his career here and doesn't plan to move again. His goal is to keep Evergreen on course and take it to the next level. He says, "It's important to continue to grow where the community needs us the most and where the demands are. I predict growth in family services, pediatrics, orthopedics, cardiac care and cancer treatment services for the future."
In the short time he has been here, Brown has visited every department at Evergreen and the majority of its outlying clinics. His goal has been to reestablish relationships with the medical community and he makes it a point to meet on a weekly basis with the medical leadership and attend department meetings, when possible. Brown characterizes his style of management as informal and people-oriented. He says, "I like first names, team-building and group participation. It's important for me to get to know people well and for them to feel comfortable with me. I want to be easily approachable. I'm a laid back kind of guy and I'm not caught up in the trappings of a CEO. I don't take myself seriously, but I take everything else in my life seriously."
Brown also looks forward to exploring the Pacific Northwest, as he and his wife have never traveled through this area of the country. They both love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, biking and being near the water. The couple has two sons, Zach, 24, at graduate school in Philadelphia, and Adam, 20, an information systems student who plans to relocate to the Seattle area in the near future.
"Everything's great," comments Brown, "except I'm getting tired of living the bachelor lifestyle. My wife's coming out in another month and then we'll move into our home in Woodinville. Then everything will be complete for me. She's just as excited about being here as I am and we both look forward to becoming a part of the community."