Tara McCoy: Youngest CEO aims to innovate at oldest WPB hospital

West Palm Beach’s oldest hospital, 333-bed Good Samaritan, is 97 years old.

Its chief executive, named in October, is 38.

That makes Tara McCoy the youngest CEO for Tenet hospitals in Palm Beach County, not to mention Good Sam’s first female chief, company officials say.

The New Jersey native says she is proud of those distinctions, but her driving focus is helping shape the hospital’s future heading into its second century.

“Ultimately what’s important to me is not being youngest or female but innovating so we can figure out how to serve the community in the next five to 10 years,” she said. “One thing that we’re looking at right now is we have a community of physicians embracing new technologies faster than ever.”

That ranges from robotic surgeries that leave smaller scars and reduce healing times to the use of genetic testing to shed light on risks and treatments for patients and families. Or with certain cancers, for instance, radiation treatments can be condensed into one or few visits rather than many.

The hospital will continue to serve a wide range of needs for residents near the city’s urban core to island dwellers just across the Intracoastal Waterway, but also wants to expand its reach with technological innovations, she said.

“One dynamic I want to change is I believe it’s going to become more important to get people to drive downtown,” McCoy said.

Though a market like Palm Beach County continues to grow, hospitals of all kinds face pressures in a changing industry. Big government programs like Medicare increasingly offer incentives for “accountable care” doctors to keep patients with chronic conditions out of the hospital, while medical centers can incur penalties if too many patients are readmitted soon after treatment, for example.

The president of Cleveland Clinic Florida predicted last year there will actually be fewer hospital beds in the county in coming years.

For the last five years McCoy has served as a “service line administrator” for Tenet in Florida, focusing on the company’s heart and vascular program and getting its various hospitals to work together more closely. That experience helped, said Marsha Powers, CEO of Tenet’s eastern region and coastal division: “Tara is a strong leader and her extensive knowledge of hospital service lines will be very valuable in this new position.”

McCoy received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tulane University and a master’s in industrial engineering from the University of South Florida.

A mother of two, McCoy says her first paying job was scooping ice cream on the Jersey Shore. It was an opening taste of life lessons ranging from the value of teamwork to “grit” or perserverance, the topic of a book she likes.

“No matter how long lines were, how disgusting the floors were, how rock-hard the ice cream was to scoop, we enjoyed working together,” she recalled.

The stakes and circumstances may be a little different now, but she describes her leadership style as “extremely collaborative; solicit a lot of opinions; the team is the most important thing with the hospital.”

Name: Tara McCoy

Age: 38

Hometown: Shrewsbury, New Jersey

Where you live now: Fort Lauderdale

About your company: I am the chief executive officer of Good Samaritan Medical Center. Good Sam is a 333-bed acute care hospital providing sophisticated, personalized medical care to Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast for nearly 100 years. As part of a comprehensive approach to cancer care, the Good Samaritan Cancer Institute features The Breast Institute, a full-service breast cancer screening and treatment facility within Good Samaritan Medical Center. The Breast Institute offers low-dose screening and diagnostic mammography, breast cancer surgery, stereotactic biopsy, ultrasound, CT scanning, PET-CT, bone densitometry and support groups for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients or patients with advanced breast cancer.

How your business has changed: We are seeing new innovations for how we treat our patients ever year. This includes robotic surgery that our surgeons can use for more precision and accuracy. It also allows us to perform those procedures with smaller incisions allowing the patient to heal even quicker. These newer methods also allow for shorter hospital stays.

First paying job and what you learned from it: I worked at an ice cream shop on the Jersey Shore. It taught me about the importance of making personal connections – both with customers and with fellow employees. I remember working with a group of friends and we developed this great rapport – we would work really hard but have a great time doing it. It resonated with the customers and we would have lines around the building. The culture was energetic and fun.

First break in the business: I was working for another large hospital corporation as a management engineer. My job was to improve emergency department wait times and operating room efficiency

Best business book you read: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” It’s not completely a business book but a study on grit and the psychology behind it. It shared studies from those who survived West Point to high achievers in the business world. It really resonated with me.

Best piece of business advice you received: Be yourself, and do what works best for you to become successful. Don’t try to emulate someone else and what works for them.

What you tell young people about your business: Healthcare is a team sport and nothing is done in a silo. Work collaboratively with other parts of the organization and your peers. Focus on team dynamics and how to develop each member.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? As someone who is new to the area, I can see the growth and swell of people moving here for everything Palm Beach County has to offer. It’s important as a healthcare organization to recognize the importance of keeping up with the medical needs of this community. We are the oldest hospital in West Palm Beach and have a rich tradition and history with so many families who were born or treated at Good Sam over the years. We want to continue to bring top medical care to Palm Beach County.

Where we can find you when you are not at the office: Spending time with my family (two kids – Connor, 7 and Addison, 4), trying new restaurants – I’m a foodie and love wine, enjoying live music, spending time at the beach, reading, jogging, and traveling to new places.

Favorite smartphone app: Overdrive. This app allows you to access most public libraries across the country. It gives you the ability to check out books right on your phone or I-Pad. You can also check out audio books.

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? The yearn to learn. I want to see someone regardless of experience level who’s motivated and is ready to jump into a new opportunity. It gets me excited to see someone who has a passion for their job when they come to work every morning.

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