In Her Own Words: Carson Tahoe Health’s Michelle Joy
Name/Title/Company: Michelle Joy/Vice President & Chief Operating Officer/Carson Tahoe Health
Number of years with company: 2 years
Number of years in the profession: 19 years
Education: BA in Economics from Grinnell College, Grinnell Iowa and MHA (Master’s in Health Administration) from the University of Iowa
Last book read: The Inferno by Dan Brown
Favorite movie: Pretty Woman
Favorite musical group or genre: current pop music
Spouse, kids or pets: Rocky Joy (spouse), Andrew & Jacob (twin sons), and Buddy (lab-weimaraner mix)
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company/organization and the duties of your position.
Michelle Joy: Carson Tahoe Health, an affiliate of University of Utah Health, is a local, not-for-profit healthcare system with 240 licensed acute care beds. Serving a population of over 250,000, CTH features two hospitals, two urgent cares, an emergent care center, outpatient services and a provider network with 20 regional locations. The system is headquartered on a beautiful master planned 80-acre medical campus nestled among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in North Carson City. As the system’s cornerstone, Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center (CTRMC), voted fifth most beautiful hospital in the nation, was the first Baby-Friendly designated hospital in Nevada. Also included on the campus is Carson Tahoe Sierra Surgery, the 15-bed boutique elective surgery arm of CTRMC, and Carson Tahoe Cancer Center, an affiliate of Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah.
As VP and Chief Operating Officer, I am responsible for all operational and management activities across the system for Ancillary Services (lab, rehab therapy, medical imaging, pharmacy, respiratory therapy, centralized scheduling, and cardiology); Facilities (plant operations, environmental services, security, biomed, and property management); Marketing (public and community relations, physician relations, market share, and strategy); and Carson Tahoe Continuing Care Hospital (a 29-bed long term acute care hospital).
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Joy: Ever since I can remember I have wanted to work in hospitals, initially as a physician. But then, through a number of experiences in college, I was exposed to health care administration as a profession. This included a Sociology of Medicine course, a summer internship in England researching the impact of Margaret Thatcher’s conservative healthcare policies on providers and patients, and a semester-long internship with the CEO (and my first mentor) of a rural hospital in Grinnell, Iowa. I was drawn to the ability to impact the greater population and the diversity of issues and challenges faced each day by healthcare leaders and policy makers.
NNBW: What do you enjoy most about working in your field?
Joy: The people. Healthcare is local and it is also all about relationships. I enjoy building relationships with the community, physicians, and all of our employees. I love the team aspect necessary to provide excellent patient care and the ability to make a difference in the community.
NNBW: What is the most challenging part about your job?
Joy: Staying on top of the ever increasing regulations and changes hospitals and healthcare providers are expected to meet, often with short notice, by the state, federal government, and other regulatory agencies.
NNBW: What do you foresee in the future of your profession?
Joy: At the same time as being the most challenging part of my job, I see it also as the most exciting part. Healthcare has lagged behind other industries when it comes to overhauling how the business operates, improving consumer experiences, and implementing efficient processes and practices. Now is a great time to lead change in the industry and influence what the future delivery model(s) will look like in the future for our local communities.
NNBW: What advice would give someone who wants to get in your profession?
Joy: Don’t hesitate to reach out to others in the field. I have yet to meet anyone in the healthcare profession who isn’t willing to give back to the field by mentoring and talking to others about this profession. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the mentors and the time others have spent with me.
NNBW: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you either professionally or personally?
Joy: A few months into my post graduate fellowship position, a physician called me in the middle of the night yelling and complaining about not being able to access radiology images on one of his patients. He threatened to call the board chairman and his attorney. The next morning I went to talk to the CEO about this and how worried I was. He told me that this wouldn’t be the first time or the last time something like this happened. He said there was nothing to worry about and that if I was going to survive in this profession I would need to be able to let things like this slide off my back and not take it personally. He was right, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had plenty of sleepless nights.
NNBW: Has there been someone who was especially influential in helping you establish your career or in reaching your higher goals? If so, who and how?
Joy: I have been fortunate to have a number of mentors throughout my career with most of them being hospital or health system CEOs. One boss/mentor in particular who I worked with for over 10 years talked to me often about my career aspirations and what I needed to do to get there. In those 10 years, he offered opportunities in four different hospitals where I was able to learn and grow in each position.
NNBW: Do you belong to any professional/networking organizations? How has membership benefitted your career?
Joy: The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). I started as a student member during graduate school, continued as a member for several years, and then for the last 14 years have been a Fellow in ACHE. It has provided me with ongoing continuing education to stay on top of current trends in healthcare and leadership that I can use every day in my organization and community. ACHE has also provided me with the opportunity to share my experience with other “early careerists” and give back by mentoring those new to the healthcare administration field.
NNBW: Is there any educational advancement that is essential for someone in your career field?
Joy: A master’s in business or health administration related area.
NNBW: How do you manage your time between the responsibilities of your profession and your personal life?
Joy: This is always a challenge and not one that I do really well. A lot of this is also dependent on the culture of the organization you work for. My kids have attended numerous after hours work related events and travelled to conferences with me over the years. I find that if I can get things planned and scheduled in my calendar in advance, it increases my ability to manage my work/life balance.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like about living/working here?
Joy: I spent 16 years in one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the country. Carson Tahoe was a great opportunity to be part of a small independent healthcare system. My husband is originally from Susanville, Calif., and still has a business there so after being in Colorado for eight years, it is great to be back in northern Nevada. We love the proximity to Lake Tahoe and the northern Sierras. Colorado is a great location as well but nothing like northern Nevada.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Joy: Babysitting for families in the neighborhood. First real job though was in middle school as a clerk at a Merle Norman cosmetics store.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming as a kid?
Joy: A doctor.
NNBW: What are your hobbies? How do you spend your time away from work?
Joy: Spending time with my family skiing, hiking, and traveling when not going to my sons’ football games, track & field meets, and alpine ski races.
NNBW: Is there a nonprofit or charitable organization that you like to donate your time to?
Joy: Carson City Rotary.
NNBW: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Joy: Anywhere with a beach and the ocean — Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Kauai.
NNBW: Is there a place around the world you have never been to that you like to visit?
Joy: Australia/New Zealand.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Joy: No, I really enjoy the work I do plus I have two boys that are costing me a small fortune and they will be off to college before I know it.
NNBW: If you had the chance to have dinner with someone, who would that be and why?
Joy: My mom because she passed away at the age of 46 when I was 20 years old. Looking back on it, I was just a kid at the time and have changed so much since then. There are often many times I wonder what kind of relationship I would have with my mom as an adult. It would be great to fill her in on all that I have done since being that 20 year old “kid.”
NNBW: What is a unique characteristic or attribute about yourself that makes you stand apart from other people?
Joy: I am often asked about my heritage. People can tell I am of a mixed race but it isn’t always easy to tell. So the fact that I am half Chinese (my mom was from Taiwan) and half American makes me stand apart from other people.
NNBW: Is there anything in your life that you wish you could do over again? Why?
Joy: No, because I believe that everything happens for a reason and there is always an opportunity to learn and grow from every decision, experience, and challenge one is given.
NNBW: If you had one moment in time to cherish for the rest of your life either professionally or personally what would it be and why?
Joy: Professionally, it would be the day I had the honor to lead the grand opening ceremonies for a $9.1 million cancer center in Sterling, Colo., where I was the hospital CEO. It was an unforgettable opportunity to recognize the family who donated all the funds for the cancer center in memory of their son who passed from cancer at the age of 44. Over the course of the project, I built a strong relationship with the family so it was an amazing tribute to their son while also bringing much needed advanced cancer services to rural, northeastern Colorado.
NNBW: Last concert or sporting event attended? Women’s World Cup ski races at Squaw Valley in March