A lot can change in 20 years.
In the last two decades, the vista from a drive up Interstate 5, for example, has changed from fields of cattle and orchards to what you see now, signs of commerce, development and bustling communities.
Similarly, the Santa Clarita Valley’s only community hospital, which is now less than a handful of years away from its 50th birthday, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, has seen tremendous progress in the last 20 years.
Roger Seaver, president and CEO of Henry Mayo, reflected on his 20-year milestone with the hospital on April 1 — “April fool’s,” he quipped — and his plans for how the hospital will continue to benefit from financial stability and community trust, regardless of the health care challenges the future could hold.
Those who work closest with him spoke highly of his passion, humility and focus, which have all put the hospital in the position it’s in today as a community leader for health care.
“Henry Mayo today is a reflection of Roger’s focused business and philanthropic vision, and his compassionate heart,” said Marlee Lauffer, president of the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation and vice president of marketing and communications for the hospital. “His leadership is evident in our growing campus, our service line expansions and in our patient care programs.”
Time to shake things up
When Seaver arrived in April 2001, the conditions surrounding Henry Mayo, and the SCV, were quite different than they are today, the CEO noted.
In addition to challenges that come to an area preparing for massive growth and development (The city of Santa Clarita’s population grew from approximately 150,000 people in 2000 to more than 225,000 today — a massive 50% growth spurt), the Santa Clarita Valley was also still recovering from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. There had been community concerns with respect to several previous contracts and services at the hospital — whether fair or unfair, he noted, it was still part of an uphill struggle Henry Mayo would need to overcome.
“(In 2001), the ability to trust this hospital, by the community, was in jeopardy,” he said.
In the years following, a number of ambitious campaigns, dedicated staff members and community supporters not only erased concerns, but helped transform the hospital, adding news features and resources just about every year since.
“His strategic long-term vision … has really transformed this hospital from this rural hospital to a medical center,” said Mark Puleo, vice president of human resources at Henry Mayo. “So you know, this has been a long 20-year vision of his — to get from where we once were until where we are now and where we’ll continue to be.”
The first of many additions
Seaver saw his initial goals as created financial stability for the hospital, which was needed to build the trust for employees and position, and then to address community needs.
“You know, to a great extent, the success of health care is, ‘Are you really meeting the needs of the people that you serve?’ And there’s always new gaps or new opportunities to meet those needs,” Seaver said.
The hospital’s ability to focus on the community’s need and fulfill those demands started with one of the first of many additions Seaver helped bring to the hospital, as well as with tremendous help from the generosity, support and philanthropy from the SCV.
“When I first got here, the need for breast imaging center and a focus on early detection and cancer was very much present here — (there was a) high desire, small group of clinical staff and then members of the community that understood the need also started raising money for the development of the facility in the service,” he said of the effort that eventually became the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center.
The facility, which has since been Designated by the American College of Radiology as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, has offered SCV residents a state-of-the-art resource for early detection since 2002.
Synergy and support
Seaver mentioned staff and community synergy, in addition to philanthropic support, as keys to the hospital getting to where it is now, with a number of distinguished and award-winning resources, but board members credit Seaver with coalescing those efforts with the example he sets for the board.
“He inspires others to aim higher and hold themselves to high standards, also,” said Judy Fish, the immediate past chair of the hospital’s governing board and former Saugus Union School District superintendent, who praised Seaver’s humility and his passion for the hospital.
“I think his passionate leadership sets the example for others to dream big with him,” she added. “All things are possible if you work together, and he shows that through his leadership and his passion, whether it’s partnering with the community, with the doctors and various groups, with the employees, with the patients, with the other leaders in the community,” she said. “It takes everyone working together — but if you don’t have that passionate, driven leadership at the top that makes it happen and brings people together, you won’t advance the way this hospital has.”
As life often moves in cycles, a disaster is once again challenging the entire spectrum of health care today in the SCV as well as the rest of the world, due to a global pandemic.
The financial challenges in providing COVID-19 community care regardless of hospital cost have prompted Henry Mayo to once again refocus its efforts, Seaver said.
“We’ve got some recovery to do that has to keep us very focused,” he said, noting a $35 million pandemic cost in the hospital’s “long-term financial picture” makes it difficult to lay out the future plans with any certainty, at the moment.
Although hospital supporters will be glad to hear its steady leadership will not be going anywhere any time soon.
“Well, I have enjoyed the ride, so to speak, here, still enjoy it, and hope to be at it for a few more years,” he said, while discussing the future, and he plans to continue to stay involved in supporting community success, not just for the hospital, but for the greater SCV, as well.
Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the SCVEDC and a board member for the hospital, praised Seaver’s holistic approach to trying to make the SCV a healthier place in all respects.
“He understands the value of a strong health care support system as being a vital component to the economic development and has been an incredible partner to the SCVEDC,” Schroeder said
“There’s a connection to people that go to work, stay healthy, because they want to go to work, and healthy communities,” Seaver said, mentioning his support for organizations like the SCV Economic Development Corp., for which he is co-chair of the Executive Committee.
“So, to me, equally important to anything that we do at our hospital is that this community needs to stay as a beacon of opportunity for businesses to locate here,” Seaver added, “and that will be very valuable over the long term.”