VIProfile: Dr. Lisa Piercey

Executive Vice President of System Services, West Tennessee Healthcare

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography by Kristina Only.

Dr. Lisa Piercey is a West Tennessee native who serves as the Executive Vice President, System Services, at West Tennessee Healthcare. She has a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from Lipscomb University, a Doctorate of Medicine from East Tennessee State University, Pediatrics Residency and Chief Residency also at East Tennessee State University, and a Masters of Business Administration from Bethel University.  She is board-certified in Pediatrics, Child Abuse Pediatrics, and Healthcare Management.

Her current areas of responsibility at West Tennessee Healthcare include administrative oversight of three rural hospitals, Pathways inpatient and outpatient mental health services, inpatient rehabilitation, the West Tennessee Medical Group physician practices, the LIFT Wellness Center, population health and disease management, employer services, SportsPlus outpatient physical therapy clinics, community education, and senior services.

VIP: You are a native of West Tennessee. Is Trenton your hometown?
Dr. Lisa Piercey:
It is. I graduated from Peabody High School. Mom, who owns two stores on the Court Square, started her first business there in 1980. She has been in business there almost my entire life. My grandparents owned Steele’s Department Store off the Court Square for around 40 years. At Christmas time I worked in my grandparents’ store and in my mother’s store wrapping packages. I don’t know that there is a career path to that, but I can gift wrap like no other!

VIP: What inspired you to enter the medical field?
To my knowledge I’m the first one in my family to go into the medical field. Almost all of my family was in the retail business, and in my father’s family there were lifelong farmers. I always excelled in math and science and then I was a candy striper at Gibson General Hospital when I was 13 or 14 years old and that kind of sealed the deal. I had a laser focus on the medical field from that time on.

VIP: Discuss your medical background. Prior to joining West Tennessee Healthcare, where were you and what were your medical duties?
The entire time I was in Jackson, prior to coming to West Tennessee Healthcare,I practiced general pediatrics at the Jackson Clinic, first at the Forest location, then at the new location out North. I joined my own pediatrician whom I had as a child, and the physicians there served as my mentors throughout medical school and my residency. When I got homesick, I did rotations back here at home. When it was time for me to finish my training, they made me an offer, and I didn’t consider any others.

VIP: Do you have a typical day or is every day different?
Every day is completely different and unpredictable. That’s why I love it. Different parts of my brain must be used for every situation. Sometimes the challenges call for empathy and personal skills, and sometimes they call for very structured and organized, almost methodical, very focused thinking. I like the challenge of never knowing what’s coming and always finding a new way to get something done.

Initially I thought I would practice general pediatrics for the next 30 years. Then in 2007, the triplets were about 2 years old, and I was itching to do something more. So I went back and got my MBA from Bethel University. When I finished my MBA I had to write a thesis paper and I chose to do it in a health care business because that is what I knew….So I never set out to be in hospital administration, but with my profound love of clinical medicine and my interest and my family background in business, it was a really nice combination…. I pursued the broader MBA, got a lot of business finance, international business, and a lot of exposure to marketing, which has always been a personal interest. I really enjoyed that program. There are only a handful of physician executives. We need more. In years past, the business of healthcare was like choosing from a menu (we call that “fee for service”), but now we have to do so much more with so much less and you have to be inventive and still make that work for the patients and physicians.

VIP: Describe one day in your professional life. Take today, for example, after this interview and the photo shoot for VIP Jackson Magazine.
I have four children and have to get them situated before I leave the house. Two kids are at horse camp today. Typically I’m in the office between 7 and 7:30 a.m., sometimes a little earlier. Every hour or half hour of the day is spent in a different way. Immediately following the photo shoot today I will visit some of our outpatient clinics and other businesses that are not inside the hospital. It’s important to them to include all of the businesses in healthcare businesses. We have multiple hospitals and clinics. Before lunch I have a deposition. I still practice child abuse pediatrics. I deal with crimes against children and so I’m oftentimes pulled into the legal world to offer my testimony of what I've seen.

Then I have to visit another facility in town who wants to contract with us for some clinical services and talk business terms related to that. Then I have an internal meeting about some changes in one of our lab systems. Finally, I’m going to work with my corporate team at the LIFT Center on how we can better provide employer reports to local businesses. On the personal side, I’m selling a house today and going to a closing. Later this afternoon my family is traveling to Paris, TN to compete in a triathlon tomorrow. (Typically I have drum lessons on Friday afternoon.) My schedule keeps me out of trouble because it keeps me busy!

VIP: What are the primary duties of Executive VP of System Services?
To sum it up, my job is to efficiently coordinate the operations of many of the businesses that make up the spectrum of our healthcare system, like wellness, physician clinics, rural hospitals, rehab/physical therapy, and behavioral health.

The overriding theme of my work is population health, which is really indicative of the entire shift of health care. It’s all about managing the health of populations. We have gone away from episodic care. The paradigm shift in health care is that we’re actively trying to keep people out of the hospital, focusing on wellness and prevention efforts. That was the impetus for the concept and design of the LIFT Wellness Center, because it is much more than just an exercise gym. It’s a much broader scope.

VIP: Your medical background focused on child abuse pediatrics. Is that a rather unique specialty?
It is a relatively new one. There have been pediatricians taking care of abused children for years. About 10 years ago the Board of Pediatrics recognized it as a sub-specialty called Child Abuse Pediatrics. Quite frankly I wish there were no demand for this. It makes a lot of physicians uncomfortable, particularly the legal involvement and there is not a lot of hard science that we’ll ever have….There are only six of us in the state who are board certified to do this. We are a very tight knit network…. In addition to providing services locally at the Madison County Child Advocacy Center, I covered the abuse program from 2007-2010 at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I was the interim director there…. I enjoyed that, and I am still on faculty there, as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

In the coming years we’re going to see closer relationships between health care entities in the region than we have in the past because of all of the changes in health care. It’s exciting. Integrating brings a lot of clarity to the mutual goals of physicians and hospitals.
— Dr. Lisa Piercey, Executive Vice President, System Services, West Tennessee Healthcare

VIP: You have four children—triplets (age 11) about to start middle school and another child, 14. How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
Lots of family help. I have a very supportive husband who has supported both my career and helping out with the family and both sets of our families. We live in Medina. Both of our parents are within 10-12 miles, and they go out of their way to help us when schools close unexpectedly or somebody gets sick or sometimes we need another set of hands or we need another driver.

VIP: Any advice to parents who are juggling demanding jobs and a family?
You don’t have to feel guilty for not being at every single event. But it’s much more about choosing and not feeling like you have to do everything. It’s a set-up for failure if you try to do it all. Our motto is you divide and conquer. I’m a very anti-helicopter parent. I believe in our kids playing outside. We are very keen on minimizing electronics, and we encourage them to read often.

VIP: What are your hobbies?
I enjoy cooking. I love to create new things with what I’ve got. I love to cook with wild game and fresh vegetables (My roots are a farm girl. If I could live out on the plains of Wyoming and live like the pioneers live, I’d be fine. That’s the way I like to eat.) We try to eat at home 3-5 nights a week and get everybody at the table. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned at the table.

My husband is a very accomplished tri-athlete. I’m not very good at it, but I do enjoy racing—running, cycling and swimming. And we are a big music family. I grew up playing piano and am now learning drums, and all 4 kids are learning different instruments.

VIP: You enjoy travel. Do you have a favorite travel destination?
I was in Norway in November of last year. It is probably my favorite country. The people were beautiful, the landscape was breathtaking, and the food was delicious. I’ve been to Asia two times, and I’m fascinated by the business and the technology there. New York City is my favorite city to visit, and I like New Orleans.

VIP: What would you like to see in Jackson and West Tennessee that is not currently here?
Even though we’ve made quite a few strides in the last 10 years, I would love to see our region become more bike friendly. You’re starting to see some cyclists around here, but I go to Denver, Boulder and San Francisco and see tons of people commuting on bikes. In Europe, there are hundreds of bikes during the busy times of the day. I would like to see us create more infrastructure and culture to promote safety for cyclists.

VIP: Fast forward the next 5-10 years. What do you see yourself doing professionally and personally? And what’s next on the drawing board for West Tennessee Healthcare?
Professionally I plan to continue on my path to health care leadership. I think in the coming years we’re going to see a closer relationship between health care entities in the region than we have in the past because of all of the changes in health care. It benefits everyone when we come together. We will see a lot more integration in the next 5-10 years, and that is my professional goal—going forward to lead that charge. It’s exciting. Integrating brings a lot of clarity to the mutual goals of physicians and hospitals.

On a personal level, my kids are getting older and busier. I’m looking forward to watching their interests and personalities continue to develop. I just signed up for my first full marathon, and there are a few more travel destinations I want to visit.