Christina Oh steps into her new role with a plan to lead health care workers upward and onward from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 3, she assumed the job of president and chief executive officer of Trident Health, replacing Todd Gallati, who served in the position for 13 years.
Equipped with a master’s degree in health care administration from the Medical University of South Carolina and coming to the Charleston area from Abrazo West, Tenet Healthcare’s flagship hospital in Phoenix, Oh brings with her a rich pool of experience accumulated through positions in various roles across the nation. Originally from Beckley, West Virginia, she grew up in various parts of the country, eventually settling down with a job at Hilton Head Hospital after meeting and marrying her husband there.
Oh sees her role in her new position as more than just an administrator handing out directives to her staff. She finds the motivation to lead in the end results and relationships her team builds with the surrounding community.
“I fell in love with the impact you can see a doctor have on an entire community,” she said.
She believes that this impact begins with the doctors themselves and the level of support they feel from their workplace: “I really fell in love with what it means to recruit a doctor and see them integrated into the community and then see their practice become successful.”
When asked what she sees as the biggest challenge of a new CEO in the health system, Oh explained that health care workers in 2021 face some of the most unusual challenges they’ve seen to date.
“We have teams of people who have gone through one of the most critical times in recent human history with the pandemic,” she said. “And even though life is getting back to normal outside the hospital, I think every CEO needs to keep at the top of their minds that they are working with teams of health care workers who are still processing the residual trauma of caring for patients during the pandemic, on top of all the other things that were life-changing, like schooling kids at home and the shutting down of society. Health care professionals are notorious for internalizing and saying, ‘this is just my job.’”
“One of the things I’m most sensitive to is not only leading people out of the COVID stress and back to normal but also creating a dialog for health care workers that says ‘it’s absolutely OK to say you’re not OK,’” she added.
She pointed out that this summer, Trident will be launching two new residency programs.
“We will be training the future generation of ER physicians, which is very important for our trauma center, and an internal medicine residency, which is where specialists such as cardiologists and gastroenterologists have to start out,” said Oh. “I believe that since Charleston is getting a lot of recognition these days as a great place to live, the community deserves to have another local health system that trains the future generation of physicians, since people who train in a certain community often stay in that community.”
“Community” is a theme that Oh returns to often, and it is clear that being part of the Charleston community is of paramount importance to her.
“Our parent company, HCA, invested $53 million in capital last year in our facility,” she said. “I want to ensure that we have services readily available to everyone, especially for trauma, cardiac and stroke. There is so much population growth, especially to the north and inland, and we have a responsibility to grow so we can serve all those patients close to home.”
Oh’s approach to addressing the health care workforce shortage is to create a culture for meaningful conversations with colleagues.
“I know I feel valued when I’m shown appreciation, when I’m given a voice in what I’m doing and when I have a clear picture of what my future looks like. That’s what I intend to offer our Trident team,” she concluded.