Melody Trimble: Managing Care on a Large Scale

In a span of a little more than two decades, D. Melody Trimble worked her way up from nurse to president of Health Management Associates Inc.’s Southern & Western Group, which covers 26 hospitals in seven states.

Since the promotion became effective on Jan. 1, Trimble has split her time between her new job and her old one(s) as CEO of Health Management’s Sparks Health System in Fort Smith and Summit Medical Center in Van Buren. She said she’ll continue to perform the CEO jobs until a replacement can be found.

As regional president, Trimble, 54, will help improve the hospitals in her division, including Sparks and Summit.

“My goal is to make them extremely successful,” she said. “And success is defined by ensuring we have quality, safe and effective health care.”

When the promotion was announced in November, she received praise from Gary D. Newsome, the president and CEO of Health Management of Naples, Fla.

“With her nursing background, she understands the vital role nurses play in working with physicians to provide high-quality care with a human touch to our patients, and now she can bring that perspective to a larger group of our hospitals,” he said in Nov. 28 news release.

Health Management operates 70 hospitals and has about 11,000 licensed beds, mainly in the South. Its revenue in 2012 was $5.9 billion, up 15.5 percent from the previous year. Its net income dipped 8.1 percent to $164.3 million in 2012.

Hooked on Health Care

Born in Fort Belvoir, Va., Trimble said that growing up she always wanted to help either animals or people. At the age of 16 she took a job as a nurse’s aide at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, Ky., and was hooked on health care. “I absolutely knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

She wasn’t sure, though, if she wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. But she didn’t think her parents could afford to send her and four other siblings to college. Her father was in the Army and her mom was a secretary for a school district in Kentucky.

Her goal was to attend college to be a nurse and then later return to medical school to be a pediatrician.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Eastern Kentucky University at Richmond in 1980 and a master’s in nursing from the University of Kentucky at Lexington in 1987.

She took her first job as a nurse in 1991 at Health Management’s Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center in Paintsville, Ky. She ran its emergency services and fell in love with the job.

Emergency Training

In 1996, Trimble left Kentucky to run another emergency room for a Health Management hospital in Georgia, but she wasn’t there long. Six months later, she was promoted to running the emergency room at Midwest Regional Medical Center in Midwest City, Okla. “One of the things I was known for was running ERs very well,” she said.

Over the years, Trimble moved around to other hospitals in Health Management’s system. In February 2005, she was named CEO of Venice Regional Medical Center in Venice, Fla.

In 2009, Trimble learned that Health Management was looking for a CEO for its newly acquired 492-bed Sparks Health System, which it had bought for $138 million. She asked Health Management officials to consider her for the job.

In 2009, Sparks was bleeding money. It had a loss of $23.59 million on total patient revenue of $626.9 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009.

“When I was in Oklahoma City, I remember hearing about Sparks Health System,” she said. “You went to that facility and you heard people talk about, ‘We want our hospital back. We want it to come back to the greatness we remember it to be.’”

She said she wanted to make a difference and improve the hospital. “I knew the strategy and the vision and the mission that Health Management had would facilitate me being able to do that,” Trimble said.

She was named CEO at the end of 2009, and since then, Health Management has pumped more than $200 million into Sparks and the 103-bed Summit Medical Center, she said.

Trimble improved Sparks’ books. It reported a net income of $34.9 million on patient revenue of $738 million in 2010. In 2011, its net income was $12.3 million on total patient revenue of $803 million.

Health Management named her CEO of Summit in 2012.

Trimble said her management philosophy is to know “what to go after and what culture and tone do we want to set and then what actions and behaviors is it going to take to get there.

“I am a very inspirational leader,” she said. “People know that I have very high expectations, but I truly empower people to do their jobs.”

Health Management named her CEO of the Year in 2010, and in 2011 the company gave her the President’s Leadership Award “for her commitment to selflessness, servant leadership and focus on quality patient care.”

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