Q&A: Kelly Smith


Kelly Smith. Courtesy Mercy Health

Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.

Kelly Smith is the chief strategy officer for the Trinity Health Michigan region, which includes Mercy Health in West Michigan.

Her career in health care spans over 25 years.

Smith has experience in many areas: strategic planning; service line leadership; medical group management; master facility planning; medical staff relations; external partnerships; governance; community relations; new program development; and executive leadership in hospital operations.

Smith's role before arriving at Trinity Health was serving as president of a 600-plus bed teaching hospital in southeast Michigan.

She has received a 40 Under 40 award from Crain’s Detroit and participated in the Detroit chamber’s Leadership Detroit program. 

She holds a master’s degree in hospital administration and a B.S. from The Ohio State University. 

Biggest career break?

I am especially grateful for my former CEO having the confidence in me to ask me to transition from running a 200-plus bed hospital to a 600-plus bed hospital. It was incredibly rewarding to gain experience in community and tertiary hospital operations having come from a strategy, service line and practice management background.

Proudest moment?

Personally, my proudest moment is every day I spend with my husband (an ob/gyn physician) and two teenage sons. I also have the blessing of living near both my father and sister, so we stay in close touch.

Professionally, during my tenure as a hospital president, I served as incident commander during a number of declared disasters. One disaster I will never forget occurred on Aug. 11, 2014. Southeast Michigan experienced a record amount of rain. The hospital took on about a foot of sewage, waste and storm water. The entire ground floor of clinical and support space was completely wiped out: 250,000 square feet was no longer safe or useable, including the kitchen, cancer services, emergency and imaging, among many other departments. Seventy patients were evacuated from the emergency department in 17 minutes, and nobody experienced an injury or unfavorable outcome as a result of the disaster. And we never shut our doors. We continued to care for patients and families through it all. 

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Three things: Keep it simple. Be highly visible. Be hands-on.

How did you make your first dollar?

My very first job was working at a seasonal outdoor flower and garden center. The temporary center was set up in a parking lot of a large pizza parlor and bowling alley in Farmington Hills. I learned a tremendous amount about how to take care of various plants. Was great spending the summer outside.

Most-treasured possession?

A collage movie of old family photos and videos spanning many decades. Incredibly special to share with my husband and kids now that I am an adult.

Dream job?

I have had the luxury of enjoying each and every job I have had throughout my career in health care — I would not change a thing. If I were to wind up in another field somehow, it would be veterinary medicine. … I love pets!

If you were president for a day, you would … ?

Encourage peace by holding a summit of world leaders at Camp David.

Last book you read?

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster” by John Krakauer

Last search term you googled?

University of Michigan sports schedule. We live in Ann Arbor close to campus and go to many different college sporting events throughout the academic year. 

Your worst habit?

While I don't do it often, sometimes I hit snooze one too many times on the alarm in the morning and then have to rush to get out the door. That extra 10 minutes isn't really worth it.

To unwind, you like to … ?

A simple evening with my family — dinner and a movie. Most recent outing was for pizza and to the theater to see “Halloween.” Really fun!

Dream vacation?

River cruise throughout Europe

Favorite food?

Corned beef and cabbage. I have a great Crock-Pot recipe.

Person you most admire?

My parents. They always put family first.

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