HCA Healthcare
December 09, 2022


Source: Nashville Business Journal
Author: Joel Stinnett
Date: December 9, 2022

To better understand HCA Healthcare co-founder Dr. Tommy Frist Jr., we spoke with three people who have known him for years. Here's what Joanne Pulles, president of the HCA Foundation, told us, edited for length and clarity.

I knew a little bit about Dr. Frist, because I had lived in Nashville for a while … but it was a little bit intimidating [to be interviewed by him to lead the HCA Foundation.] I was in my mid-30s at the time. … But he really put me very much at ease and I could tell that he was so incredibly knowledgeable about the community that working under his leadership in the foundation would be an incredible experience.

One memory I have is early on in my career we got involved with Habitat for Humanity. He made his schedule available, drove his car out to the house dedication with not a lot of fanfare and celebrated with us and the family that we had built the house for. He really connected with that family, as well. That’s just who he is. [At HCA] if it was a cafeteria person helping him get his lunch or whoever it was, he tried to know your name, he tried to really look you in the eye and connect with you. That’s just who he is.

His United Way involvement was so important to him and that’s where he really took his business acumen and his entrepreneurial spirit and worked to develop the Tocqueville Society. That resulted in $10 billion in philanthropic assets for United Way to push back into communities. They really felt that leaders need to lead in nonprofits as well as lead in their businesses, and he led that by example. He was involved in the bones of the nonprofit infrastructure of this community as an anchor institution … and I think Dr. Frist recognized the importance of that. … He set expectations with his leadership team, that if you are a leader at HCA you need to be involved in the community. That reverberated into the community and into other organizations. …

[I learned from Frist] the importance of joining with others to get really big things done. … How do you take big issues and get the leaders all on the same page around that issue so that you can move it forward. He always did that with vision and with purpose. … We talk about a purpose-driven life now, and I think Dr. Frist is an example of that before it even had a label.