Revamping a Hospital, Transforming a Community

PROVO, Utah – Feb 13, 2023 – In December 2022, BYU Marriott School of Business alum Scott Adams retired as CEO of Pullman Regional Hospital in Washington state. Reflecting on 30 years of dedicated service, Adams recalls the opportunities that he had to unite and improve the Pullman community. Adams’s efforts to create an inclusive, people-centered culture in the hospital had rippling effects that will be felt in Pullman for many years to come.

Adams’s journey to Pullman’s administrative staff started with an interest in healthcare, specifically dentistry. When acceptance into dental schools didn’t pan out as expected, Adams shifted gears and decided to pursue an MPA at BYU Marriott in 1980. As a graduate student, Adams enjoyed playing basketball with his cohort and exploring various careers during his program. More importantly, he recognized that he was receiving a quality education at BYU Marriott.

“The environment of support was exceptional, and the education itself was pertinent for the time,” says Adams. “Because we were a small class, we got to know the professors well and appreciated the insight from their experiences.”

One important connection for Adams that brought mutual benefits was with Vance Fager, a fellow BYU Marriott MPA grad. Adams helped Fager find a job in Virginia where Adams had been in a residency internship himself. So when Adams and his family needed to move west a few years later, Fager reached out with information about an administrative job opening at a community hospital in the remote Washington town of Pullman. “I came out for an interview and was offered the job, and we accepted. So we moved our family out to Pullman, and we’ve been here ever since,” says Adams.

When he started at the small hospital as the CEO in 1992, Adams immediately became aware of needed changes. “The hospital hadn't developed a vision of what was most important to it or how it could best meet the needs of the community,” says Adams. “So we took about nine months to gather input from the staff, physicians, and community members to understand what was possible for the future.”

In directly addressing the undefined values and priorities at the hospital, Adams and his colleagues created a timeless vision centered on inclusivity and intentionality. “It is essential to set the tone of an organization and pay attention to its fundamental cultural underpinnings. That's where a CEO needs to spend a lot of their time,” says Adams.

This focus on cultural underpinnings helped the hospital reorient itself toward this new vision. First, Adams conducted new onboarding-type orientations for the entire staff, regardless of how long they had worked there. While some in the hospital felt this was unnecessary, Adams executed on this idea to ensure everyone understood the new expectations regarding their service as a hospital.

In conjunction with these important turning points, Adams and his staff put together plans for a new hospital facility, which has stood as a beacon of the collaboration between the community and the hospital staff since its completion in 2004. Hoping to gain more trust from the community, Adams involved locals in the building process. 

“We had community committees that helped us design the interior of the hospital, picking out furnishings and other items. Those who helped felt some ownership of what we were doing. We've always considered ourselves as stewards of the hospital for the community,” says Adams.

The new hospital Adams helped create—and the community that rallied around it—continues to make positive ripples in Pullman. “The community-focused culture that we've worked to develop and strengthen at the hospital has permeated through the community as people interact with our nurses, physicians, technologists, and food-service workers,” says Adams. “The community has been met with an attitude of service and kindness. They found their experience to be uplifting. They recognize that the activities that go on in the hospital have brought up a positive sense of family and community.”

Adams recognizes his MPA from BYU Marriott gave him vital knowledge about organizational behavior that enabled him to direct the transformation of Pullman Regional Hospital. “I was privileged to help create an environment where the people who are doing the caregiving feel like they're cared for, like somebody is making sure that their work environment is uplifting and positive and that they have sufficient resources,” says Adams.

Adams looks forward to enjoying his retirement by traveling with his wife, Sharon, seeing their kids and grandkids, and continuing to be a citizen of Pullman. His fulfillment from years of hard work also serves as a reminder of the impact each person can have on their community. “It's been a great team effort that we've all been a part of,” says Adams. “And it's a pretty spectacular story of how a small hospital, by paying attention to the right things, can have a much bigger impact on the broader community.”

Scott Adams in front of the new Pullman Regional Hospital.
Scott Adams retired as CEO of Pullman Regional Hospital in Washington state. Photo courtesy of Scott Adams.
Scott Adams at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Scott Adams helps cut the ribbon for the new Pullman Regional Hospital. Photo courtesy of Scott Adams.
Scott Adams with his family.
Scott Adams with family members. Photo courtesy of Scott Adams.
Scott Adams at the construction site for the new hospital.
Scott Adams at the construction site for the new hospital. Photo courtesy of Scott Adams.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Samantha Clinger