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Archie Drake: Leading with compassion as CEO of Children’s Hospital of Michigan

From nurse to CEO: How Archie Drake transforms health care for Detroit’s youngest patients

Archie Drake has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Hospital of Michigan since December 2022. Children’s Hospital of Michigan is one of six hospitals that make up the Detroit Medical Center, which is part of Tenet Healthcare, that operates 52 hospitals across the country.

Drake has served in the health care industry throughout his career with experience in multiple hospitals across the country. His medical background started in nursing where he worked as a Critical Care/Trauma Registered Nurse. After moving into leadership roles, he’s gained experience at all levels of management from Manager, Director, Chief Operating Officer and now Chief Executive Officer. He has been involved in a variety of health care initiatives that have resulted in improved patient outcomes.

Drake has a history of being active in local, civic and national organizations. Since relocating to Michigan, he has affiliations with the Michigan Hospital Association (MHA) Children’s Health Council; serves on the MHA Children’s Hospital Council; Central Michigan University’s Clinical Research Institute Advisory Board; Heroes Circle Kids Kicking Cancer Board; Sparky Anderson’s CATCH Charity for Children Board; and he has been appointed to the Michigan Certificate of Need Commission by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which evaluates and determines clinical service need across the state.

Drake was born in Texarkana, Texas, and obtained his undergraduate Nursing Degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a graduate degree in Business from Amberton University. He spoke with Munson Steed, the publisher and CEO of rolling out.

Munson Steed: Hey, everybody! This is Munson Steed and welcome to “CEO to CEO,” where we bring you the most talented visionary and those of service. CEOs, who have taken up the space and bring this information on what it is, what their vision is, and how they are changing our community and our community’s position. I am so proud of my dear brother, Archie Drake. How are you?

Archie Drake: I’m doing well. How are you, brother?

MS: I’m phenomenal. When you think of Children’s Hospital of Michigan and being the CEO, you got the call. Why’d you answer the call? And what is it to be a CEO of a children’s hospital system?

AD: Sure. I’ll tell you. I got the call in November of 2022, and when I got the call, I was serving in the health system already. But I was down in the Texas market, and I got to call to actually come up on an interim basis. They called me up and said, “Hey, the CEO of the Children’s Hospital has taken another job. We don’t have a transition plan. You come up and just kind of help them out till we find a CEO?” And I’m like, “Sure I’ll be glad to do it.” Never been to Detroit, heard of it. And so, I came up truly to be interim, and when I got here just jumped in. Started doing my thing which we could talk about later. 

There were three reasons, really four reasons, that I stayed in Detroit and took the permanent role. No. 1, were the children. By background, I’m a nurse, I’m an adult nurse, but when I got out and about started rounding through the hospitals seeing these children. I mean, how do you not fall in love with the kids that that your team is taking care of? No. 2, was the health care team here. Very committed team of health care experts, physicians, nurses, other Allied health professionals that were doing everything they could to take care of the kids that were presenting this hospital, and I wanted to join them and be a force to remove barriers they were facing to do their jobs. 

The third thing was this community. This Detroit community looks like my community. There’s a very embracing community. I do have a bit of grit inside of me and so I resonate with the Detroit community. But the fourth reason, and the most important reason that I stayed in Detroit and took this role, is that my wife agreed to stay in Detroit. So, mama was happy here. So I stayed here. So those were the four reasons that I was here. 

So, what does it mean to be the leader? Let me give a glimpse into what’s important to me when I look at this organization. We serve pediatrics across southeast Michigan. We have six locations where we’re providing care. This is how I lean. There’s five things that are at the forefront of what I do. The first thing is people. This is a people business, and I’m all about serving people. I mentioned them, the team, our patient, the community, is my people, the seventies quality. 

When you’re taking care of children, I look at myself and my team and say, we are taking care of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in this community, and they deserve, they’re entitled to high quality care. And that’s my forefront. Then it’s service, we gotta remember we’re in a service industry, like many other service industries, there’s choice. I want to be the Children’s Hospital Provider of choice. I want high demand for the services we provide, and when we do that is to be a service oriented organization.

Health care, like many others, is highly regulated. There’s a health care  joint commission. There’s Medicare Medicaid. There’s a lot of federal organizations. I love being in the news. I love the media spotlight, but not if it’s because I’m missing some regulatory requirements or some compliance issues. So that’s that. So, being truly regulated compliance is important to me. 

And then, finally, the fifth thing is around top-line growth. There is a demand for what we do. You and I’ve talked earlier just about the importance of seeking health care services, it’s even more important for children, and children in southeast Michigan, let’s set on the line. There are some equity issues when it comes to access to health care. So, that top-line growth for me is around, how many children can we touch? So that’s how I lead this organization around those pillars, and that’s what I kind of engage in and push my team to be focused on.

MS: That’s a wonderful, well-said and excellent description. For some young brothers and sisters who are literally contemplating industries to lean into, health care, can you give them two or three reasons that this opportunity has every space? As a CEO, you’ve got accounting. As a CEO, why lean into the health care industry now? If you were speaking at Morehouse, Texas Southern, Dillard, Xavier, Spelman, if you’re given a commencement speech, why lean into the health industry? And why does the health industry need a diverse workforce?

AD: Sure, that’s a great question. So, a couple of things about me, and the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Let me kind of paint a picture for you. We are a part of the Detroit Medical Center. The Detroit Medical Center is part of Tenet Healthcare, a national organization. So, when you think about health care, I am a nurse. My undergrad is in nursing, a bachelor’s degree in nursing. I spent over a decade at the bedside taking care of patients. What drove me there? Health care is going to be here. It’s gonna be here. That’s No. 1. So that’s the first answer to that question. We’re gonna be here. 

No. 2, let’s talk about diversity. When you think about the historical black colleges and universities that are truly producing key talent within Tenet Healthcare. I serve nationally on our initiatives around employee resource groups and I am the executive sponsor with intended health care of the Black ERG. We are being intentional about bringing in diverse talent and here’s why that’s important. When there is diversity in talent, that means that we are gonna have diversity in ideas. 

When ideas are diverse, everyone wins. There’s different thinking. There’s different priorities and we really emerge around that. And when the health care workforce looks like the community, there’s trust. If you look at why a lot of people don’t see health care the way they should. They don’t trust it. But when something resonates with you, if it looks like you, you have more trust in it. 

And you touched on something else, health care isn’t about doctors and nurses. You mentioned there’s accounting, there’s finance. Even more than that. There is electrical. There’s engineering. There’s so many things that it takes to keep the health system running. I mentioned earlier on the regulatory compliance side. There are so many rules and regs that we have to follow. So, having talent that brings not just medicine and health, but brings those other specialties, is so important. 

And within health care, if you want to grow professionally, there are opportunities there. Look at me, I started out as a bedside nurse with a great career, and I’m sitting in the CEO seat of the No. 1 Children’s health care center in the world, in my opinion. But it shows you the pathway that are there, just for people that look like me. That has my drive to really thrive in health care.

MS: Thank you for that. Lastly, for those individuals who want to be a CEO, what are those things that they may not know that you didn’t know but how, and who, whispering in your ear along your journey, prepared you to go from nurse to CEO?

AD: Sure, and it was a journey. That’s exactly right. Well, the first thing is, no matter what role you’re in. Bedside nurse, front line, individual contributor, be the best at what you do. Because when you’re the best at what you do, you will be recognized for what you do. But, more importantly than being the best at what you do, when you’re ready and you have a vision. Say something. Tell someone what your vision is. Look to people who are in roles that you would like to aspire to, reach out to them. That’s what I did.

I remember when I was wearing my scrubs, I said what I want to do one day, and I made an appointment at that hospital with the chief operating officer. And I just said, “Look, I’m wanting to grow, wanting to develop. How did you get to where you are?” He took me on as a mentor. And I’ll tell you, I’ve had some great mentors, because that’s the secret. Find people who will take interest in you, who will invest in you to help you grow and develop. So, I learned a lot of things. 

I was at the time a practicing nurse. I’m still licensed. But I wanted to understand from someone who was in a space not like mine, because it helped me understand how to communicate with non nurses and how to communicate with non-clinicians. You think about the top of most organizations. There are business people, finance people. How do you connect those dots? How do you resonate with them? That’s important to do. 

But mentorship is what got me to where I am. I had some important mentors in my life and I give that back in any chance someone wants to meet with me. I have two or three people that I mentor right now, to help them on their journey, but that to me has been my secret sauce is having great mentors who invested time, invested just tools of a trade in me.

MS: Super. Well, I’m gonna thank you, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve heard it all, and truly understand service and compassion and leadership in our dear brother, Archie Drake. Thank you so much for coming on “CEO to CEO.”

AD: Mr. Steed, thank you so much.

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