HCA Healthcare
December 08, 2022


Source: Nashville Business Journal
Author: Joel Stinnett
Date: December 8, 2022

To better understand Legacy Award winner Dr. Tommy Frist Jr., co-founder of HCA Healthcare Inc., we spoke with three people who have known him for years, including his younger brother. Here’s what Dr. Karl VanDevender, internal medicine specialist at The Frist Clinic, told us, edited for length and clarity.

I've known Tommy 43 years. … When I think about Tommy, I think about this phrase, “What do we need to do?” Tommy wouldn’t sit around thinking about things so much, as he was interested in, “What do we need to do now to accomplish whatever we need to accomplish?” He was good at getting the right people to come together to get whatever needed to be done, done.

If you looked around the Southeastern United States in the mid-1960s, there were many rural communities that essentially had no modern hospitals. I used to go with Tommy and his father out to towns like Smithville; Adairville, Kentucky and Russellville, Kentucky, and what they had was a doctor with a house. The house would’ve had in it maybe six beds, a small operating room and an X-ray machine and that was the facility for that town. Basically, Tommy looked around and said, “What do we need to do?” So, [HCA] started building rural hospitals throughout the South. It started out as a rural hospital company.

I was taking care of his high school football coach, Tommy Owen. The stadium at [Montgomery Bell Academy] is named after Coach Owen. He told me that Tommy would say to the team, “What do we need to do to win this game?” He was the quarterback and what he was able to do was spot talent, strengths and weaknesses in each person and apply those as needed to get the job done. They became state champions … and [Tommy] was all-state. …

His father always thought of him as fearless, but cautious and disciplined. If you look at his skiing, his flying, his willingness to think big, in terms of a company, he was fearless but cautious and disciplined. One example of that, is every morning he got up and got a 3x5 notecard and wrote down his goals for today, his goals for the intermediate future and his goals for the far future. These goals had to do with business, health and family. He wrote them down every day and refined them and refined them. The point of that is that in order to accomplish things you have to stay focused and he could absolutely stay focused.