USC Verdugo Hills Hospital’s new Chief Operating Officer Tadren Kennedy is happily settling into the position since starting in August.
“I am happy to be a part of the Verdugo Hills and USC Keck medicine family. This is my [15th] week on the job. It has flown by and it’s been great,” Kennedy told the News-Press.
Kennedy, who grew up in Mississippi and played sports for most of his life, decided to get involved in health care after meeting Evan Dillard — a former CEO at Forrest General Hospital — who would become his lifelong mentor.
After meeting the former hospital CEO through his godfather, Kennedy was able to make the transition from sports and into health care easily.
“[Evan said to me]: we have a lot of lawyers, [but] we don’t have enough health care executives and young health care leaders and specifically, we don’t have a lot of men of color and Black American, or Latino American health care executives in the industry,” Kennedy said.
He didn’t forget his sports education, and used skills such as teamwork, understanding and patience to apply to this new line of work.
“I just immediately kind of fell in love and knew that I had a calling and kind of found my ‘why’,” he said. “I fell in love with the ER and the OR. There was always something different. Everyone plays a role and then has a great impact in what it takes to really provide care to patients. You’re also involved in a community.”
During his journey to complete his master’s in public health, health administration and policy at the University of Southern Mississippi, Kennedy started getting involved as a resident and fellow with Forrest General Hospital.
From there, Kennedy didn’t stop and didn’t take any opportunity for granted. Over the past seven years, he moved from assistant administrator to vice president of hospital operations, all at different hospitals with different needs and resources.
“So, over the past few years, it’s been a great experience, and you get to leave your mark,” Kennedy said. “You do great work, you’re networking and meeting people, and they hear about you, and you’re developing a skill set. And then opportunities arise.”
He took every experience from each job and applied it to the next, which then lead him to USC-VHH.
“I ended up coming out [to California], and I instantly fell in love with this team and this community hospital, as well as the Keck academic and community health model, and it was kind of hard for me to say no,” Kennedy said. “So, I made that leap-of-faith decision to drive cross country in my car on Route 66 to end up in Los Angeles.”
Though California was a whole new experience for Kennedy, he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to grow more in his career.
“I’ve had a mentor that instilled in me to continue to be flexible, open to growth and change and be willing to relocate and seek opportunities, because these opportunities don’t come often,” he said. “And this is one of those businesses where if you continue to do well and continue to develop your skill set and passion for the industry, you will have opportunities.”
“There is nothing else I’d rather be doing than helping lead hospitals and being a servant leader as a part of the team,” he added. “So, I think the value of mentorship and sponsorship as well as continuous professional development — and having a glass half full — have been very valuable for me in the success that I’ve had for sure.”
His goal in any role, but especially in his new one at USC-VHH, is to do a great job and leave a positive impact.
As COO, Kennedy will be leading multiple areas such as community engagement, day-to-day operations at the hospital, strategic growth, aligning the hospital with its mission, creating new strategies and facilities management, to name a few.
“It’s kind of a little bit of everything,” Kennedy said. “A bridge builder, a patient-care advocate and ethical compliance all rolled up into one. No day is the same, it’s always something different. You learn a lot and have a lot of responsibilities … but I love it. Love the job, love this industry. And I’m extremely happy to be here and a part of the community.”
He has also been eager to dig in more to USC-VHH’s unique model.
“For me, this is a community hospital that also has academic affiliation and services, as well as meshing the community, physician and provider models all into one,” Kennedy said. “And that’s not easy to do. It’s very innovative and groundbreaking. It’s a day-by-day kind of mission and initiative.”
Kennedy is embracing this new experience.
“I think living in California from a business perspective is probably one of the most highly regulated states from a health care perspective, when it comes to facilities management, laws, labor laws, all those different things that you have to learn,” Kennedy said.
“I love the cultural diversity, especially from a health care perspective, because it requires you as a leader in health care advocacy and as a team member to consider a very diverse group of patients,” he added.
He is also able to see a shift in community after spending some time here and speaks to how dedicated the community is to USC-VHH.
“I think from Glendale to Montrose to La Cañada and La Crescenta, it’s been great,” Kennedy said. “I think it really hit home for me to see how committed this community is to this hospital, and how much people really love it, and value it.”
“I think this is definitely a family atmosphere up here and it’s very connected,” he added.
Kennedy is trying to make his way around Los Angeles and even went to his first Dodgers game.
“That was pretty cool,” Kennedy said. “That was my first MLB baseball game actually, so that was pretty exciting. But other than that, I’ve been really focused and committed to being in the hospital most of the day and onboarding before I kind of keep exploring L.A.”
Overall, Kennedy said he never would have imagined the career he has now.
“You couldn’t have told me 10 or 15 years ago that I would go from being a guy from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to living in L.A. and helping lead an incredible hospital and being a part of a great USC organization,” he said. “I never would have thought that at all.”
USC-VHH welcomed Kennedy with open arms, and is excited for him to be on board, CEO of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Dr. Armand Dorain said.
“We could not be more excited to welcome Tadren to the Trojan family and the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital community,” Dorain said. “We knew from his previous experience that he would bring both strategic insight and fresh perspective, but more importantly, he shares our passion for ensuring the wellness of our patients and neighbors, as well as fostering a vibrant staff culture.”
First published in the November 25 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.