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Business Graduates

Nicholas Crafts, MBA, MHA, FACHE

Nick Crafts

What I do now: I am pleased to serve as the CEO of Houston Physician's Hospital and Houston Physician's Surgery Center. Both are part of the Houston, Texas metropolitan area. 

My work/job consists of: I spend much of my time engaging our leadership team to ensure we are improving our organization; working with our medical staff to meet the needs of our physicians and community; staying abreast of the never-ending and continually-evolving list of healthcare regulations; seeking out new ways of delivering quality care; and working with our board on strategies for our future.

Path to my current career position (how I got from the past to the present): I pursued hospital administration after graduating from LSUS because it allowed me be part of something bigger than producing widgets or making money. When I graduated in 1999, LSUS didn’t yet offer a Masters in Healthcare Administration. I earned a Masters in Healthcare Administration/Masters in Business Administration in Houston. I had the opportunity to work for LifeGift Organ Donation Center and then completed my administrative residency in hospital administration with Hillcrest HealthCare System in Tulsa, OK. After residency I joined the executive team at one of Hillcrests's academic facilities - Oklahoma State University Medical Center (formerly Tulsa Regional Medical Center). From Tulsa, my family moved to Enid, OK where I served as COO of a 250-bed hospital for 5 years. In an effort to get back closer to "home," I served as COO of Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas in Beaumont, and later as CEO of Victory Medical Center in Houston before coming to Houston Physician's Hospital and Surgery Center. Hospital administration isn't talked about much, but it's where many aspects of the US healthcare system come together. I find the challenges to be extremely rewarding.

How I got to LSUS (or why I chose LSUS): When I graduated from Airline High School in Bossier City, I pursued LSUS because of its strong reputation for business administration. 

Fond memories of LSUS:  Summarizing fond memories of LSUS in anything less than a novel would be impossible. I’ll share that I had NO idea how many ways I could get involved…or even that I wanted to be involved. Wow! The student body as a whole was very welcoming and embraced me right away. I don’t know that I would have been able to experience so many aspects of student life had I selected a larger university. I was able to serve in a Chairman’s role for Student Activities Board (meeting all sorts of celebrities and planning really great events), being elected as Student Government President, speaking to the LSU Board of Supervisors in Baton Rouge (twice), functioning in a variety of leadership positions in Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (Go TKE!), working as a Student Ambassador (with my good friend Rachelle Smith – super-alum), and one of my favorites – getting to work as a Freshmen Orientation Leader in the SOAR Program for three years! I actually met my wife and best friend, Amy James Crafts in 1997 as a freshmen orientation leader, so I would have to say that is my fondest memory! I arrived at LSUS as a fairly shy kid and left completely transformed with a passion for life, and aggressively pursuing my professional pursuits. Thank you LSUS!  As an added bonus, I convinced my mother to finish her undergraduate degree in psychology. My future wife, mom, and I all graduated LSUS on the same day in 1999!

LSUS faculty who helped me: Many of my favorites have retired, but Dr. Gloria Raines, former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, probably had the greatest single impact on me. She had a great communication style that I emulate to this day. Paula Lewis, who previously oversaw the SOAR program, was so encouraging. And, former Chancellor Vincent Marsala, who created a dynamic culture for students to flourish! I took every class Amy Wren taught related to Business Law. Karen James is a Marketing genius; Linda Martin was a wonderful Mass-Communications professor; Chris Martin and Charlotte Jones in the College of Business… I could go on and on here.  So many great professors that took time for me and answered all of my many, many questions. 

How LSUS helped me succeed: With the countless ways LSUS allowed me be involved, I developed leadership skill sets I use every single day. Student organizations were plentiful and open to developing new talent! I will share that there is a place for everyone at LSUS – whoever you are – you will find and develop your gifts! My involvement as an undergrad gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my career in hospital administration. Working with other students and faculty, I began to see how to get things done. And most importantly, I learned that we do not improve through complacency. Fire truly forges iron - facing the unpleasant stuff in life is what sharpens our individual skill sets. Perhaps you have heard one of my favorite sayings, "When going through Hell, keep driving!" 

Advice to college-bound students:

1)   This has the potential to be the most fun, with the least responsibility you will ever have in your life. Study hard – play hard. As a college student I remember driving home after class (during the work day) and feeling sorry for the people I saw in business attire.  I am now one of those people in business attire… Enjoy everything LSUS and university life offers.   

2)   Be willing to put yourself out there. For an undergrad, Greek life is probably the fastest way to meet an abundance of people. While I loved being a TKE, every fraternity (and sorority) has a different personality and you will find your niche. We did a tremendous amount of service – and yes, we had a great time as well. 

3)   Even if you don’t go Greek, make a decision to get involved in student organizations and take advantage of every single leadership workshop offered. Not only is it fun and educational; it looks great on your resume.  

4)   Have fun, but remember you are ultimately there to earn a degree. Most folks find balance between academics, work and socializing. Don’t be “that guy.” In a few years, you will either have a degree or not.

5)   Talk to other students before making your schedule. Enough said on that one.

6)   Stay away from the nice people offering to sign you up for credit cards!  That has the potential to be the most expensive free t-shirt you ever received.

7)   Stay positive.  If you find yourself complaining, ask yourself what your role in creating and solving your current dilemma has been.

Advice to someone who wants to enter my field: If you like the ever-changing and unknown world of healthcare administration, pursue it.  When we do our jobs as hospital administrators well, people get better. We can actually improve the lives of the communities we serve.  However, you will find your career path much smoother if you are willing to relocate. (I always saw it as an adventure.) Talk to people in healthcare administration before your sophomore year. Most executives have big enough egos that they like to talk about what they do. Just ask. 

Tips on choosing a major or career: I dealt with this one all the time as a Student Ambassador and as a Freshmen Orientation leader. You have nearly two years of general classes to change your major. Everybody needs to take English, math, etc. Sign up in the college you think you want to graduate from, but you can change your major at any time. It’s not a big deal. However, by the end of your freshman year – you want to start refining your major or you will be a perpetual student. You aren’t required to graduate in the same field you sign up for – so relax!  

My toughest professional challenge: On one occasion, shortly after taking a new job, my boss was suddently forced out and I found myself without a job. Needless to say, that was not a fun situation. My feelings were hurt; I felt that I had been wronged, blah, blah, blah. The truth is, it wasn't the right place for me and I needed that experience to get me on the path to finding a job I truly loved.That’s when I realized the power of my personal and professional networks. I had three job offers in a matter of days and tons of support from great people! I learned a lot about the coldness of the business world, but I also learned a lot about myself. Nothing strengthens you like adversity! I believe that I am a better leader because of that experience.  

My toughest personal challenge: I was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2002 – days after our first child was born and fighting for her life in the NICU. All of this was happening at the very moment my career was taking off. Fortunately, we both had great physicians and I had very supportive bosses. My daughter and I are both good to go now! In fact, that little preemie is a high school cheerleader today. However, nothing lends perspective like being a patient! Humility is a very painful, but useful lesson! Many years later, as I look back on that very dark time, I am so grateful to my family that helped me keep driving through it until we reached the other side. Remember, if you don't like where you are, keep going!   

Successes (honors, awards, etc.) in my life: We are very active in our church parish. I serve as a Eucharistic minister, junior high religious education teacher, Knight of Columbus, and am a member of our church’s ACTS Retreat Team. 

I’ve learned this from life:

This is probably going to sound inanely simplistic (and it is):

1)   Be nice - use your powers for good!  I’ve later had people work for me that hadn’t been all that nice to me when I was working my way up in the company… You never know who will have the ability to influence your career. And when you are their new boss or have an opportunity to interview them for a position, take the high road! We’ve all made bad choices at one time or another. Remember the story of the prodigal son?  That’s how we are supposed to love.

2)   Statistically, you are probably going to get laid off or fired at some point in your career. Accepting that now will allow you to be better prepared if it does happen. While it’s extremely personal to you – it’s just business to the company. You will be okay. Some of the best bosses I’ve ever had experienced this. They chose to overcome and are in even better positions now. Build your professional network now - before you need it. 

3)   Marry the right person. I was fortunate that God put Amy in my life. She’s seen me at my worst and has always supported me. Today we are blessed with two great kids, my daughter Jamison (14) and my son Grayson (10).

4)   I would tell you to look before you leap, but too often I’ve not known how wide the gap was until I had already left the edge. Hindsight is 20/20.

5)   As a leader, you are expected to overcome challenges in spite of the circumstances. There will be challenges… it’s life.

6)   And most importantly, don't let others control your destiny! 

What I’d be doing if I had all the time in the world: I have been able to find balance and keep God and my family a priority. I don’t know that I would change much – more time serving the church and volunteering, more time with my family and friends. Perhaps my golf swing would improve. I feel very blessed.

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