Cary Burcham, director of childrens services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, has been on the job for roughly seven months. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — Having always had an interest in health care, and in interacting with others through leadership roles, Cary Burcham saw an opportunity last year when he heard there were plans for the former Palmyra Medical Center, now Phoebe North Campus, to be converted into a women’s and children’s center.
As the director of children’s services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, his duties include managing the elements that go into caring for the hospital’s youngest patients as well as overseeing the expansion efforts officials are aiming to bring in as part of the planned transformation of Phoebe North.
In a recent Q&A with Herald writer Jennifer Parks, Burcham talks of his interest in antique cars, how the changing climate in the health care industry has impacted his job and how he hopes a women’s and children’s center will help change the atmosphere not just at Phoebe, but for the region as a whole.
Q. What was your very first job?
A. Working at a restaurant. I was 16.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?
A. A car.
Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping volunteers motivated?
A. Saying thank you, and demonstrating appreciation for what they do.
Q. What led you to your current position?
A. I’ve always enjoyed health care, so I always knew I wanted to be in health care. What drew me to Phoebe was the (desire) to work on the new women’s and children’s center. It was an exciting draw to be involved in.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. I’ve had lots of different mentors at different points. The one person I consulted with on many points, and I no longer have him, is my dad — and my best friend is my wife.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the recent recession?
A. The biggest lesson I’ve learned professionally is that I will work in a constant (climate) of change … I just think that’s the new norm.
Q. If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology — email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs — what would it be?
A. I love technology; I really embrace technology. If I had more time, I would say pre-email allowed for a clearer division between personal and professional life.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. My cell phone.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. Christmas time with my family.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A.I have to profess that I’m not a big book reader. I do a lot of online reading. There are a number of professional health care digests that come to my inbox. I also have a few antique car newsletters I enjoy reading.
Q. What is your morning routine?
A. I like to get up in the morning and get a cup of coffee. I catch up on email, plan my workday and I sometimes watch the news. Sometimes I don’t, depending on how much time I have — and I get ready for work.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?
A. I’d like to meet Jerry Seinfeld. I love his sense of humor, I love his degree of success and I love his car collection.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activities outside of work?
A. I like to exercise, and I enjoy antique cars.
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. Many years ago, I made a job change that took me out of a leadership role and placed me in an isolated technology role. I don’t think I suffered negatively, and it didn’t impact me other than make me realize (my strength) was something in a leadership role.
Q. Best and worst things about your job?
A. The best thing about my job is the incredibly talented people I have a chance to work with. I get a chance to see the fruits of their efforts … They don’t try to cut corners in doing what is right for patients. The most challenging part of my job is trying to manage that effort with the changing landscape of health care.
Q. What was the most beneficial course you took in school?
A. Organizational development, for my master’s degree.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. I would love to be an actor in the next Star Trek movie. I’d do it even if they didn’t pay me.
Q. Where do you see yourself on the first anniversary of your retirement?
A. I see myself really struggling to enjoy the downtime. I enjoy working, and I would probably struggle with having that much free time.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
Q. What kind of music do you most like listening to?
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. I’m still getting to know Albany, but it seems to be on the (verge) of tremendous growth. (The upcoming women’s and children’s center) will help in providing specialized care to kids, and my hope is that we will have a growing women’s center. I think that will be a big draw (for physicians), and I think it will be an incredible source of pride.
Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?
A. Increasing acuity of care and shorter length of stay, and increasing awareness of the cost of health care and improving access to care.