by Kym Byrnes

When Garrett Hoover was speaking to the hiring committee last September about his interest in becoming the next president of Carroll Hospital, he had no idea that a global pandemic was on the horizon. March brought travel restrictions, a state of emergency, public school closings and stay-at-home orders, and for Hoover, a new job as the president and chief operating officer of Carroll Hospital. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, Hoover comes to Carroll with 30 years in health care under his belt. His most recent position was as president and COO of Corning Hospital in New York. Hoover, a self-proclaimed people person, said it was the people, values and community that brought him here. Now living in Westminster with his wife and 8-year-old son, Hoover is very much looking forward to getting back to his “people person” ways when the coronavirus chaos eases. 

What did you think you wanted to be when you were growing up? Interestingly, when I was very young, I wanted to be an architect, and then it wasn’t until college when I knew that I would do something with business. 

Are you currently living in Carroll County? Do you have family? I currently live in Westminster with my wife, Anna Luisa, and 8-year-old son, Christopher. Our plan is to sell our home in Corning, N.Y., when we are able to get back and take care of that. I also have an older son, Gabriel, who is 20, and he is an emergency medical technician in Pittsburgh. We are getting acquainted with the community as much as we can under these circumstances [related to COVID-19]. 

What are some highlights of your professional career that have prepared you for this position? I was the president and COO of Corning Hospital in Corning, N.Y., for the last five years and that is a system of five hospitals and about 5,000 employees across the system. 

I was also president and CEO of a hospital in Roaring Springs, Pa. for 15 years and held leadership positions at other organizations. So 30 years — but who’s counting? My background includes experience and education in human resources, marketing, buying physician practices, strategic planning, selling a hospital, pretty much every aspect of health care administration although I do not have a clinical background.

 In a nutshell, what is the gist of your job — what are some of the responsibilities you are tasked with? I believe that I’m responsible for the overall stewardship of quality services, financial services and people, everything we do kind of breaks down into each of those areas. And it takes a great group of people in order to accomplish those. A true leader in this type of environment has to have a servant’s heart, and I’ve seen that already in my time here, people are really stepping up to the challenge, whether it’s physicians or associates in the organization or board members, all have a servant’s hearts, and that is one of the key reasons I wanted to come to Carroll Hospital and Lifebridge Health. 

Hospitals are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is it like taking on a leadership role at a hospital at such an unprecedented time? It’s a crazy time to be changing jobs, that is absolutely true. Who would have thought in September that by March we’d be in the midst of a global pandemic? I think Carroll is doing exceptionally well, I get to observe people at a time of crisis and I’m very impressed with the level of decision making, innovativeness, innovation, preparation, the fact that Carroll Hospital was first in Maryland to set up drive through specimen collection location and then an ambulatory tent adjacent to emergency department. It’s reassuring to me that this is a team that knows how to respond very effectively in a time of emergency. I get to witness that every day. 

What are your biggest concerns for the hospital, for the community, in terms of COVID-19?  I would say it falls into three buckets of work. One is our staff and making sure that we are staffed appropriately to handle the volumes of patients that we’re seeing. The wellbeing and safety of staff is always at the forefront of my mind. Second is making sure that we are able to provide them with appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment). With a national shortage, I don’t care where you are, there’s difficulty locating various products and I’m very impressed that we’ve done some very innovative work at Carroll, much more so than other health care systems that I’ve seen. And third is community — making sure the community continues to comply with Governor Hogan’s directives for staying safe and social distancing. 

Thinking outside of COVID-19, what do you anticipate being some of the biggest challenges in running Carroll Hospital?  Well, we can’t step away from COVID, it has changed the traditional onboarding process whereby we have an itinerary set up four to five months out. All of that has been turned upside down so there is no getting integrated quickly and up to speed, and assimilating in a different way is a challenge. It’s really important to me to develop strong relationships with staff, the community, businesses, and COVID has changed how I can meet with people.  

What are you excited about in this position here at Carroll?  Hopefully after COVID, and let’s hope that’s soon, I can really connect with staff and the community. I’m very much a people person and I’m seeing a very highly engaged team at all levels of the organization. A team with a strong reputation, an engaged and supportive medical staff, a well-led organization by the board of directions, system leadership by Lifebridge, everything is progressive and patient-centered — those are things that really exited me about this position and organization. This organization has a very proud tradition of high quality and a high level of success, my goal is to continue that trajectory. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  On a professional basis I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to run some solid hospitals with strong quality and financial results. But really, my greatest achievement is probably more on a personal basis — I donated my left kidney to my uncle in January 2011, and that was life-changing and a defining moment. 

What is one thing people might find surprising to learn about you? At first interaction people would describe me as kind of conservative, kind of reserved, but I like going pretty fast. I love dirt bikes and sports cars and I play competitive basketball tournaments once or twice a year. 

One of the best trips you’ve ever taken? My wife and I love to travel internationally and COVID has changed that. I don’t expect we’ll be taking any international trips anytime soon. Probably one of the best trips we took was to Brazil. My wife is Brazilian and we absolutely loved Rio de Janeiro. It was a great trip; that was probably four years ago. 

One thing on your bucket list? My son, Chris, is dynamite and full of energy and loves racecars, so we would love to see Formula One racing at Le Mans in France — that would be a bonding father-son trip.

Who are some of your real-life heroes? One is my father. He’s no longer living but he was one of the kindest, humblest, most generous, self-made, strong work ethic individuals you’d ever meet. His handshake was a binding contract. He taught me a lot of values. I never had the chance to thank him and say to him, “I am who I am as a result of the way you raised me.”

Second would be Franklin Roosevelt. He led our country through World War II, having fireside chats by radio for people who were fearful of the future. I think we can learn from that. I think FDR is a great example of leadership in such a critical period of our country. 

And third, I’m a huge New York Mets fan. A few years ago, I got a chance to meet Mookie Wilson. He was a great player for the Mets and helped them win the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. I was able to have dinner with him one-on-one and he was so kind and so humble, a great sense of humor. That was such a wonderful two hours of time with someone I admired.

How do you think other people would describe you? I say this humbly, but I think people who have worked with me would say I’m fair, honest, consistent, transparent, approachable and authentic. I think people would describe me that way.