Philoron (Phil) Wright
Growing up in Gainesville, Fla., sports taught Phil Wright the essential skills he credits with his success as a hospital administrator: tenacity, practice—and especially blocking and tackling. Although the 36-year-old CEO of Southampton Memorial Hospital went to Florida A&M University on a tennis scholarship, he sees the blocking and tackling he learned in football as the most relevant to what he’s learned as a hospital executive. On the field and in the hospital, that means focusing on the basics in order to achieve success. And as a hospital leader, Wright sees those basics as doing no harm and treating patients well.
He also says his clinical experience has been a huge asset in his current role overseeing a hospital that serves a patient population of about 25,000 in Southampton and Isle of Wight counties. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in cardiopulmonary science, Wright spent more than two years as a registered respiratory therapist at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.
“There’s not a lot people can shoot past me that I haven’t seen,” says Wright, who has led Southampton Memorial Hospital since November 2010. “It’s not that someone with a business or financial background couldn’t learn it, but when a respiratory manager or nurse manager talks about acuity, I can relate.” Adding to his clinical experience, Wright later earned a master’s degree in health administration from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He describes his leadership style as “adaptive,” which he thinks is crucial in the always-changing field of healthcare.
“If you’re not able to change and modify your strategies to keep up with the change, you’ll be in trouble,” Wright says, adding that he prefers to get his hands dirty “out in the trenches.”
Michelle Logan-Owens is vice president of clinical ancillary services at Sumter, S.C.-based Tuomey Healthcare System, who met Wright when he came to the system as an administrative resident in 2004. “At first he comes across as very reserved, but he’s very analytical in this thinking,” Logan-Owens says. “He takes time to be thoughtful and deliberate in his considerations,” she says, later describing Wright as disciplined, goal-driven and team-oriented.
But her greatest memory of Wright—a husband and father of two young sons—is a personal one. In May 2004, Wright knew that Logan-Owens was planning to host her daughter’s first birthday party while her husband was deployed in Iraq. As LoganOwens remembers, Wright helped set up tables and tents, took photographs, and shot and uploaded video so her husband—who had earlier missed his daughter’s first steps and words—could see the party she hosted for about 60 guests at their home.
“That’s who he is,” Logan-Owens says of Wright. “If somebody had a problem or struggle, he would help in any way he could.”
“If you’re not able to change and modify your strategies to keep up with change, you’ll be in trouble.”
36, CEO, Southampton Memorial Hospital, Franklin, Va.