Three decades ago, when Julie Miller-Phipps was a nursing student, a summer job took her to the surgical floor of an Anaheim hospital, where she was appalled by the harsh way surgeons spoke to nurses.
Right then, the Torrance native decided to switch from the clinical side of healthcare to the business side. And she set herself a new goal: to run the hospital.
Today Miller-Phipps, 60, runs not just one hospital, but the sprawling operations of Kaiser Permanente in Southern California from Bakersfield, across Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire and Orange County down to San Diego.
As president of the giant HMO’s largest region for the past year, Miller-Phipps oversees a staff of 70,800 serving 4.4 million members. Kaiser’s Southern California patient load has surged by a million members in the past six years.
In April, the nonprofit group opened its 15th Southern California hospital, an $850 million facility in San Diego. Kaiser’s 8,000 affiliated physicians have been opening new office buildings in the Southland at the rate of one a month for most of this year.
Miller-Phipps, a Huntington Beach resident, works out of the region’s Pasadena headquarters. At a recent Orange County Business Council event in Costa Mesa, she spoke with attorney Tom Phelps, chair of the group’s CEO leadership caucus, and took questions from the audience.
Her comments, edited for length and clarity, ranged from her childhood experiences to the future of medicine in an age of artificial intelligence and robotics.
My dad, James Miller, was a self-made man. He worked his way up from the mail room of an insurance company to vice president. He had no college, but he taught me so much about business and leading with integrity. He was very proud of me.
Almost every woman I ever met who is a leader in business had a strong male figure in her life who believed she could do anything.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom and later worked for Kaiser Permanente [in a clerical job] when I was in college. She is a full-blooded Italian mother. You always know you are loved, and you always know when your hair is out of place.
The emergency room
I was hyperactive and inquisitive as a child. By the…