John Emery, 36

President of Bon Secours - Southside Medical Center and Bon Secours - Southern Virginia Medical Center

John Emery has felt called to healthcare for as long as he can remember. His paternal grandfather worked as a physician in rural Ohio, and Emery could see, even as a child, how much impact this one person had on so many peoples’ lives.

“Healthcare is different every day,” says Emery, who is currently the president of both Southside Medical Center and Southern Virginia Medical Center. “One day you may have clinical issues, then the next real estate issues. Being able to help people takes on all kinds of forms.”

Emery moved to the River City in March 2019 after serving communities as disparate as the isolated yet bustling island city of Key West, Cocoa Beach, and a rural, northern Florida town. While in the sunshine state, Emery was tasked with the exceptionally complex job of overseeing a hospital evacuation during Hurricane Irma. “We had to fly our patients to Alabama,” he recalls. “As a healthcare organization, you really are a pillar of the community and there’s a lot of responsibility to serve them correctly.”

By March of 2020, Emery says he was grateful for the opportunity to be in Richmond during a world-rending moment in the medical field. “In healthcare, people run to the fire instead of away,” he points out, noting how proud he is of his entire team’s response during the pandemic. “Change is always hard,” says Emery. “And the rate of change we experienced in 90 days and subsequently hour to hour … it was problem solving at its finest.”

Emery says he’s been able to cling to a COVID-born silver lining: While change is not getting easier, it has become the norm. Folks are understanding that facing a new challenge every day is doable, if not an ideal situation. He adds that a vigorous embrace of technology has also been a boon during this time. “For us, because we are face-to-face, we ask, ‘How do we make the human touch more accessible?'”

Going forward, Emery says he believes that, in the best-case scenario, we will all carry a newfound empathy with us.

“[The pandemic] helped drive home the patient-caregiver relationship,” says Emery. “We asked, ‘How do you create community with no visitors, how do we connect patients with family members?’ That level of being compassionate through the process is something I hope we never lose as an industry.”


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