In his role as COO of the Tennessee-based hospital Tennova Healthcare Turkey Creek Medical Center, UK Gatton alum Ben Ridder provides leadership for the hospital to drive the delivery of high quality patient care, patient volume and revenue growth, and effective cost management.
Tennova Healthcare Turkey Creek Medical Center is a 111-bed hospital that provides services to a 16-county service region in eastern Tennessee. They also serve as a Level III Trauma Center, offering open heart and advanced cardiovascular surgery, neurosurgery, and robotic surgery; as well as orthopedic and joint replacement.
One of Ridder’s greatest challenges is operating within the healthcare industry’s average operating margin of 3 percent. “Because of this narrow margin, I must be creative in the how we produce operational success and financial viability, all without sacrificing patient care and experience,” he said. Every industry has been impacted by COVID-19, but especially healthcare, and in light of this, Ridder’s role has expanded to developing surge and emergency plans and adapting to the ever-changing landscape to maintain safety for patients, employees, and visitors.
In the last two years, Ridder has overseen more than $15 million in capital projects such as an additional operating room, cardiac cath lab, and additional ICU capacity. He is an active part of the physician recruitment process and participates in several community organizations – all of which help to support Tennova’s overall mission and growth as an organization.
When reflecting on his journey from administrative specialist to COO, he believes that each role he played provided an opportunity to grow. “I think the key was adopting a mindset to accept all experiences, whether glamorous or not, as an opportunity to provide personal growth,” he said. “This mindset has helped expand my experience outside the four walls of the hospital and improved my standing within the organization.”
In addition to his degree from the Gatton School of Business and Economics, Ridder also earned his master’s degree in healthcare administration from UK. He feels that the combination was ideal for laying the foundation for his career. With knowledge in core business principles, finance, accounting, and marketing, he was able to land a career that is not only personally fulfilling, but that improves the lives of many people. In his words, “Gatton provided great opportunities to explore different business areas and challenged me to apply the classwork in a real-life setting. Because of this, I felt more prepared for my master’s coursework. The MHA provided me invaluable opportunities to expand my network and learn from industry leaders. The UK alumni network is expansive and one of the most valuable assets.”
Ridder’s advice for those looking to achieve similar success to find a passion. “When you have a passion for your field of work, the rest comes much easier - and that passion may not always be your first job or even your first industry.”
The second bit of advice is “To remove ‘no’ from your vernacular. Don’t be hesitant to accept an assignment, a network event, or anything else that seems unknown. Try everything and meet everyone. Interactions or events that seem small in the moment can sometimes provide a path to long-term success.”