Ask Dr. Guy Hudson what matters most to him in his work and he immediately answers: “Patients come first.” But he also hastens to add that, “Our people come first, too.”
As the Chief Executive Officer of Swedish, Hudson represents a new generation of leadership in health care. His vision for Swedish includes providing the best possible patient experience, creating a work environment that’s “a home away from home” for his team, and using innovation and a learning culture to continuously improve Swedish as the community’s health system.
Dr. Hudson views his career journey in simple, modest terms. “I never said ‘someday I am going to be a CEO.’ I have always focused on working hard to excel at the job I have, and I have always believed career progress would follow.”
So it has. Prior to becoming CEO, Hudson spent ten years at Swedish “caring for some of my favorite patients—kids.” Working as a pediatric urologic surgeon, he steadily began serving in progressively higher leadership positions across the organization. As he has gracefully assumed increasing organizational responsibility, he has also been deeply involved with several initiatives that have shaped today’s leadership perspective at Swedish. These initiatives have led to improved caregiver engagement, patient care and workflow. So while Hudson has passionately immersed himself in every position with an irrepressible drive to give his absolute best in the current assignment, his emergence as CEO could not have been better planned if, well, he had planned it that way. His energetic commitment, steady upward pace and evolution as a leader throughout his career journey have prepared him well for the challenges of his current job.
Actually, the preparation began long before Hudson’s arrival in Seattle in late 2007. He was a competitive collegiate swimmer, attending Indiana University on an athletic scholarship. There, he was coached and mentored by the legendary James Edward "Doc" Counsilman, a two-time Olympic coach whose Indiana champions included Mark Spitz and John Kinsella, each a Sullivan Award winner as America's outstanding amateur athlete. Counsilman brought multiple national titles to the university, and was described by The New York Times as “perhaps the most innovative coach in United States swimming history.”
Counsilman was a pioneer in filming his athletes, using the medium to break down technique and find precise ways to improve it. Hudson smiles as he remembers Counsilman coaching him to change his stroke during his junior year.
“Doc told me that we were changing my stroke to eventually go faster, but that it would initially make me slower until I got used to it,” Hudson recalls. “I did slow down during my junior year. But the next year I posted my fastest times ever. He taught me that patience, adaptability, hard work and dedication lead to success.”
Young Hudson learned a lot about swimming—and about life. He has been applying these lessons to his life and work ever since. He continues to be a relentless learner, a voracious reader and an attentive student of those around him. Ask about particular books that have influenced his leadership philosophy and he will point to three volumes on the bookshelf in his office: Start With Why by Simon Sinek, How Physicians Can Fix Health Care: One Innovation at a Time by Chris Trimble, and Leadership on the Line by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky. He also credits university faculty mentors like Pat Bettin at the University of Washington, where Hudson earned his MBA and certification in an executive development program. Hudson describes Bettin as “a gracious, humble leader who leads with integrity”—a description which seems to fit Hudson pretty well too.
For Hudson, learning and reading are one of three basic requirements for balance in life—the other two being family and fitness. He credits his wife (also a surgeon), and their two teenage children for keeping him grounded. Hudson enjoys actively engaging with friends and business associates, and believes that “relationships carry the day.” He spends considerable time at Swedish’s various campuses, meeting the caregivers and patients who inspire his work. “I try to be present. I try to walk the beat, so to speak.”
As for fitness? “I still swim, but my workouts now are more like how I used to just warm-up for swimming in college,” he laughs. Hudson also enjoys running half-marathons and enduring boot-camp style training to stay fit.
His work has taken him far and wide. Hudson has served with international care groups, including stints in Africa and Guatemala. It is during such experiences that he feels closest to what really matters about the work that he does. “Experiences like Africa and Guatemala keep you grounded about the things that are most important in life,” Hudson says quietly. “The gratefulness of the people that you are able to help, the powerful difference that even the smallest action can make in their lives—it reminds you of just how lucky we all are for the advantages that we have.”
For Hudson, such periodic pilgrimages to help others are an invaluable affirmation of his obligation to care for his own community and to make a meaningful difference with his work. Like the holiday cards he receives each year from parents of kids he has treated, including photos and updates on their progress, these experiences “are why I do what I do.”
Hudson likens his approach to his life and career to the “20-Mile March” concept advocated in Jim Collins’ 2011 book Great By Choice. The concept calls for consistently hitting prescribed targets, day after day, year after year, regardless of the prevailing conditions, setbacks or windfalls, or opportunities to slack off or push harder. “It is basically the tortoise’s approach versus the hare’s approach,” Hudson observes. In the 20-mile concept, it is easy to see Hudson’s focused and steady drive for excellence throughout his life, from swimmer to physician to top executive.
He views his job as CEO as an opportunity to take those youthful lessons in patience, adaptability, hard work and dedication to the next level. He is animated as he talks about the future of Swedish, the exciting potential of technology and innovation to create the best possible care experience and work environment, and the importance of investing in the right things. “When times get tough, that is when you most need to invest in your people,” says Hudson.
Hudson brings natural leadership, enlightened thinking and an intense work ethic to his role as Swedish CEO. He has already shown decisiveness, strength and compassion in connecting with caregivers, making key strategic leadership hires, re-engaging physicians as partners, and improving governance. It is an exciting time for Swedish as the 107-year-old community asset is poised for a future of success as a health care innovator. And, thanks to Dr. Guy Hudson’s next-generation approach to his job as CEO, a future of continuing to put patients and the people who care for them first.
Guy Hudson, M.D., MBA, FAAP, is the chief executive officer for Swedish Health Services. In this role, he oversees the strategic direction and operations of the organization. He partners with key leaders to ensure that Swedish upholds its Culture of Safety, delivers the highest-quality care to its patients, and provides a respectful workplace that values the contributions of every caregiver. His steady, open leadership exemplifies an unwavering commitment to the Swedish mission.
During his tenure at Swedish, Dr. Hudson has served in various leadership positions across the organization. For nearly a decade, he led outreach and programs that transformed Swedish pediatric services. He successfully unified physicians throughout the organization, and brought together caregivers and administrators. He has been involved in a number of initiatives that have directly influenced Swedish’s leadership perspective, operational workflow, caregiver engagement and patient care. Through his dedicated work with the Pediatrics enterprise, he developed a deep understanding of primary care, the emerging population health movement, and the complexities of the acute care environment.
In December 2016, Dr. Hudson was named chief of Physician Services for Western Washington, focusing on medical group operations in the areas of provider engagement, patient satisfaction, and financial, operational and quality performance.
Previously, Dr. Hudson served as Swedish Medical Group’s chief medical officer. He proved to be an enthusiastic champion of quality, value and patient experience. He is a strong advocate for fiscal stewardship and was instrumental in charting the strategic direction of Swedish Medical Group in a challenging and rapidly changing health care industry.
Dr. Hudson came to Swedish as a pediatric urologic surgeon in late 2007 from an academic practice at Oregon Health and Science University. He completed a fellowship at the University of California-San Diego and a residency at the Oregon Health and Science University.
Dr. Hudson has been recognized for multiple years as one of Seattle’s and Portland’s Top Doctors, and he received the Patient’s Choice Award Compassionate Doctor Recognition from 2011 to 2014. He has also been active with international care groups, including providing surgical care to children in Africa and serving as a Guatemala service representative with Providence Health International.