Brad Pope may not be a health care provider, but he's looking out for 16,000 employees at 16 hospitals in six states at a time when the pressures on health care professionals are extraordinary.
"The most important part of leadership is listening," says Pope, who is division vice president and chief human resources officer for the Southeast Division of CommonSpirit Health, which includes CHI Memorial. "People, employees, staff, they want to be heard."
Pope has always been one to walk the halls of CHI Memorial and talk to everyone he meets, but a couple of things have made that more difficult lately, he says. One is COVID-19, which has everyone masked up and socially distant. Another is the evolution of his role, which expanded last year to encompass the largest division of CommonSpirit Health, formed when Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health merged in 2019.
"That's truly where I get my energy is talking to employees," Pope says. "I love to go to the cafeteria. Invariably, I won't make it back. That's a blessing and a curse. You're late to meetings sometimes."
His career in human resources began when Pope was in business school at Lipscomb University in Nashville and found he vastly preferred his psychology classes to his business accounting course.
"I thought, there's something here for me," Pope says. "Can't you merge business and psychology in some way?"
He had left Chattanooga for college thinking he'd go into the family business. His father owned Pope's Buster Brown shoe stores in Chattanooga, and Pope grew up helping out and planning to join his father in running the stores. Instead, after earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, he headed to graduate school at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to get a degree in industrial and organizational psychology. There, he met his wife, Becky, with whom he has three daughters.
After stints in human resources at TVA, the Chattanooga Housing Authority, and Siskin Hospital, Pope came to Memorial Hospital in 2002.
* Role: Division vice president and chief human resources officer for the Southeast Division of CommonSpirit Health, which includes CHI Memorial.
* Secret to your success: “The most important part of leadership is listening. People, employees, staff, they want to be heard.”
* Did you know? A native of Dayton, Tennessee, Pope was born at Memorial Hospital.
* Dream job when you were 10: Guitarist, which was an unlikely scenario since Pope doesn’t play the guitar.
His guidance has made the hospital a leader in employee engagement, says Lisa McCluskey, vice president of marketing communications at CHI Memorial.
"Brad's vision for an engaged workforce has led to CHI Memorial achieving the highest employee engagement scores (89th percentile) within Catholic Health Initiatives," she says.
"State-of-the-art medical equipment, modern and efficient medical spaces, and innovative multidisciplinary programs require a professional and skilled workforce. That is why human resources is such a critical component of any health care organization."