Featured Leader: Jim Wetrich

Jim WetrichJim Wetrich, current president and CEO of The Wetrich Group LLC, and former president and General Manager, The Americas at Mölnlycke Health Care, earned a Master of Health Administration from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in 1982. He also earned an MBA from Emory University in Atlanta in 2009. Jim graduated number one in his class at Emory—not bad for the tall redhead from Southern California, known affectionately as “Big Red!”

Jim is a whirlwind of energy and activity; he is a world-class networker and collaborator with an active Rolodex as thick as the largest encyclopedia. He has served in significant leadership roles with a number of successful healthcare provider and supplier organizations and is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is also a 2015 fellow of Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute.

Jim believes in continuously learning. During a fascinating hour-long interview back in 2012, he explained why he went back to school for a second master’s degree:

“It wasn’t about a degree. I didn’t need another degree. I am at a point in life where another degree doesn’t mean a whole lot. It was all about admitting that the world has changed dramatically since I earned my first master’s at Tulane in 1982. I wanted to go back and get exposed to the world as seen now by some of the finest academicians in the country and world.”

When he applied to Emory, Jim wrote the following in his application:

“The human life cycle is similar to a product’s life cycle: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. My primary purpose for attending Emory is to redraw my human life cycle graph and to extend the maturity phase. I see the process as a period of renewal, re-education, and revitalization… I expect to learn many new things, to challenge some of my current assumptions, to correct misunderstandings, and frankly to relearn things that I have long since forgotten.”

Jim’s love for learning started with reading as a youth; he explains, “My siblings and I were not allowed to watch TV during the week. So, after completing our schoolwork, there wasn’t much to do after dark other than read.” At the time of the interview, Jim, who is still a reader, had just finished the book, On Becoming A Leader by Warren Bennis, which he highly recommends.

In addition to his appetite for education, Jim enjoys traveling and learning about other countries and cultures. He explains that before his responsibilities required him to travel internationally, he was very naïve about the rest of the world and the intricacies of other cultures, including the way healthcare is delivered, purchased, and paid for outside of the U.S. “It has been a very enriching and rewarding experience for sure,” Jim says of his travels. “The diversity of working with and for many very unique and wonderful people and organizations in diverse environments and diverse cultures has had an enormous positive impact on my life… no question about it! I am very much a proponent and supporter of diversity. Diversity is one of the core themes and principles I use today in terms of how I lead.”

As I spoke with Jim, I came to admire the obvious appreciation and gratitude he fosters for others. “I have absolutely been blessed with the people I have had the opportunity to work with and for… they have contributed greatly to my personal and professional development. Really, really great people and I owe them all so much,” Jim says. This sincere appreciation and gratitude drives Jim’s desire and commitment to help, serve and mentor others.

Jim continually counts his blessings and encourages other healthcare leaders to do the same. “We are so blessed, as providers and suppliers, to be in healthcare… working in an industry that has a sense of purpose and that is improving lives. How great is it, at the end of the day, to know that you have positively impacted people’s lives and wellbeing? What a great place to be… that is healthcare!”

Jim, a very successful and inspirational healthcare leader, attributes much of his leadership ability to the foundation laid in his youth by his experience with the Boy Scouts of America. Jim, who is an Eagle Scout, proudly tells of his family’s legacy with the Boy Scouts:

“My dad became an Eagle Scout when he was sixteen, in 1934. I am an Eagle and my two sons are both Eagles. The great thing about Scouts is that it gives kids an opportunity to develop leadership skills. The Scouting program has such rich resources; it has been an amazing experience for my entire family. I was very touched and honored when I was awarded the Silver Beaver Award in 2009. This is the highest award that can be given by a Boy Scout Council. Absolutely excellent leadership training and opportunities.”

In addition to the Boy Scouts, Jim also points to his wife, Nancy, as a major and very positive contributor to his life. He relates this story from when they were first dating: “My dad followed me out to the garage one day and asked me what my intentions were with Nancy. I responded that we were having a good time dating and being together. Dad said, ‘Well, what are you waiting for?’” Jim says his dad’s advice that day about marrying Nancy is the best advice he has ever received.

All in all Jim is a remarkable and genuine leader who daily lives out this credo: “Whomever you serve, serve them with care and respect. Wherever you reach, reach beyond your grasp. Wherever you go, go as a leader. Above all, have fun.”