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Richard ‘Chip’ Davis has a vision for the future of Rochester Regional Health and beyond

Richard ‘Chip’ Davis has a vision for the future of Rochester Regional Health and beyond

Rochester Regional Health CEO Chip Davis poses for a portrait on Monday, May 23, 2022. (Photos by Lauren Petracca)

Before he took the helm at Rochester Regional Health earlier this year, Richard “Chip” Davis was leading a health system in Detroit, where he had a conversation with a nurse manager he won’t forget.

The nurse manager had been working in an intensive care unit filled with COVID-19 patients. She hadn’t had a vacation in over two years and was working with a staff made up largely of agency nurses due to staffing shortages.

During this time, the nurse manager was approached by a man whose unvaccinated wife was on a ventilator there and told if she were not given a non-FDA approved drug for the virus, he would start shooting people as they were leaving the hospital that evening.

Despite the threat, the staff continued to care for their patients, fortunately, without incident. Their professionalism and dedication during that time were not lost on Davis.

“Even faced with this unimaginable stress, these people keep doing all they can to help their fellow man,” Davis said, adding helping and supporting the workforce is critical. “They are heroes.”

Davis became Rochester Regional Health’s CEO on March 7, succeeding Eric Bieber, MD, who retired at the end of 2021.

The over 20,000-person organization posts annual net revenues of some $3 billion and includes a geographic area that covers Western, Central and Northern New York.

The health system is the region’s second largest employer, according to the most recent Rochester Business Journal list.

Rochester Regional’s board of directors initiated a national search after Bieber announced his retirement. An internal selection committee comprised of board members, medical and dental staff and leadership was created.

Upon his selection to the post, board members spoke of Davis’ unwavering commitment to patient safety and quality as well as his extensive experience in health care environments.

Davis is a native of the Finger Lakes and recently purchased a home in Honeoye Falls.

He received his doctorate in public health from Johns Hopkins University. He also has a master’s degree in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan.

Despite the challenges of the past two-plus years, Davis is hopeful about the health care industry and excited to help RRH grow.

While there is much work to be done, Davis says steps can be taken for the betterment of the health care system.

His top priorities are focusing on patient safety and quality, which he knows can best be fully realized with the aid of a strong workforce.

The resiliency of health care workers was recognized early in the pandemic and the focus needs to remain on them, Davis said.

To help, the health system continues to offer, and improve upon, wellness programs and flexible scheduling options.

Other areas the health system will continue to focus on are sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Looking beyond the local health system, Davis believes there is a need to completely redesign the health care delivery system at the national level.

He calls the current $3 trillion industry – with escalating expenses year-after-year — unsustainable.

“We need to identify a 21st century health care delivery model,” he said.

Some of that could mean applying lessons learned during COVID-19, such as the increased use of telehealth services. Other options could include creating jobs that have never existed before.

“We need to determine what we have to do to deliver the highest quality of care at the best value with the best clinical outcomes in the world,” he said.

Listening to those who are out in the field is key.

For example, Davis believes it’s important to go to the source and speak with those who are on the front lines since they are the best ones to suggest what could be done to make a situation better.

Chip Davis talks about his new role as Rochester Regional Health CEO on Monday, May 23, 2022.

In the practice of Lean Six Sigma, it’s called the Gemba Walk, Davis explained. It means taking the time to watch how a process is done and talking with those who do the job rather than simply viewing results and making comments without understanding the nature of the workflow.

Chip Davis talks about his new role as Rochester Regional Health CEO on Monday, May 23, 2022.

Davis is also a proponent of human-centered design, an approach to problem-solving that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.

Lean Six Sigma and human-centered design will be topics discussed by a group of health system leaders, board members, managers and physicians. The group will then use the concepts to create team projects which could lead to improvements throughout the health system.

Davis also supports eliminating waste and repetitive processes but is cognizant of the need to honor the unique cultures found at RRH hospitals across the region.

“I don’t believe you should homogenize everything,” he said, citing the importance of local identities.

Davis was no stranger to the health care field when he entered. His mother and grandmother were nurses and Davis had an extended stay in the hospital when he underwent open heart surgery at the age of nine.

He originally trained to be a health care researcher and while he enjoyed the work, he learned early on that he preferred real world health care experiences.

Davis found mentors inside and outside of the health care industry who provided valuable insight and advice.

He also spoke of his fortune to have had the opportunity to work in many different roles over his career.

Prior to his current role, Davis served as senior vice president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System’s South Market and Henry Ford Hospital.

Prior to joining Henry Ford, Davis spent more than 25 years with Johns Hopkins Medicine in various positions, including president and CEO of Sibley Memorial Hospital, a nonprofit hospital in Washington, D.C.

Davis was also the vice president of innovation and patient safety for JHM, ran ambulatory operations and led several transformational efforts for the academic medical system.

He was able to draw on his experience in health care and business at Johns Hopkins, where he was on faculty at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, School of Public Health and Business School.

Davis believes it is important to be a visible, collaborative leader.

He admits to challenging people’s mental models and enjoys engaging with them when it comes to looking at how things have always been done and, in contrast, what new ways may be introduced that could help make things better.

Looking ahead, Davis sees opportunities that support not only the health system, but the region as well.

He sees a huge opportunity to draw from Rochester’s long history of innovation and to work collaboratively to get things done. That could include engaging with other health care systems, health care providers and payers, as well as elected officials and university leaders.

“If we can work together collaboratively, we can do phenomenal things,” he said.

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