Rick Strid helped VMC become largest multi-specialty clinic in the Valley during his 25 years there
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – Twenty five years ago the corner of Hillsdale and Akers was the edge of town, transferring medical files meant handing them from one person to another, and Visalia Medical Clinic hardly had any technological equipment.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of care at Visalia Medical Clinic and the quality of people it cares for. That’s due in part to Richard “Rick” Strid who retired on Feb. 1 after 25 years as CEO of Visalia Medical Clinic (VMC). Strid said Visalia wasn’t really part of his career plan until he flew his wife and daughters here before taking the job at VMC. On the flight home to Oregon, Strid asked his wife Kim if he should take the job at a clinic that was more of a horizontal move rather than graduating to a larger clinic.
She answered with a question, “Do they put drugs in the water here?”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because those were the nicest people I have ever met.”
Strid agreed and accepted the job as the chief operating officer for then CEO Bill Brower in 1994 before taking over as CEO a few years later. A year before he arrived, the physician-owned clinic had just expanded the facility to its current 100,000 square foot at the corner of Hillsdale Avenue and Akers Street.
Since that time, Strid’s management style has helped VMC become the largest multi-specialty clinic in the Valley. He has overseen significant growth in the multi-disciplinary clinic, which now offers over 60 providers as well as on site imaging, lab, physical therapy and a sleep lab. VMC sees between 1,500 and 1,700 patients per day and rank in the 90th percentile among other clinics on patient satisfaction surveys. Under Strid’s leadership, the clinic was named Large Business of the Year by the Visalia Chamber of Commerce in 2014.
“VMC has been privileged to have Rick at the helm for the past 25 years, guiding the organization through huge changes in health care,” noted Ralph Kingsford, president of VMC. “He has certainly earned his retirement and the board, physicians and staff are grateful for his leadership. He will be missed.”
One of Strid’s biggest accomplishments was negotiating a deal with Kaweah Delta Medical Center to form the Kaweah Delta Medical Foundation. Born out of a need to recruit doctors to replace a record number of retiring physicians, the foundation was a key part of Kaweah Delta starting its residency program.
“A large number of doctors practice near where they do their residency because they become part of the community,” Strid said. “This allowed us to recruit eight new physicians to Visalia just in the last year.”
In addition to recruiting physicians, Strid said the partnership resulted in VMC taking over operations of Kaweah Delta’s Sequoia Prompt Care walk-in clinic on Ben Maddox. He said urgent care facilities like Sequoia Prompt Care and VMC’s own QuickCare clinic are important to alleviating overcrowding at Kaweah Delta, which has one of the busiest Emergency Department’s in the state.
“We see a few hundred people every day that come here instead of going to the ER,” Strid said.
While he doesn’t have a medical degree, Strid said he understands people and how people want to be treated. He said the 63 providers at VMC have helped create a culture that doesn’t look at medicine as doctors and everyone else, but as key players on a team with the same goal. He illustrated the sentiment by pointing out that he was only the fifth CEO in the 75 year history of VMC.
“Our success is because of our physicians,” Strid said. “They want people who want to work together and they make sure employees are taken care of.”
Strid said some medical executives strive to reach the corner office of headquarters miles from a medical facility, but that he thrives in offices that operate more like a family. He said doctors, nurses, assistants, and receptionists celebrate birthdays together, have barbecues at the clinic four times each year, and the doctors who own the clinic still give employees turkeys for Thanksgiving and hams for Christmas out of their own pockets.
“People here are wonderful and you won’t find nicer people than here in Visalia,” he said.
Strid has been very involved in the community, having served as a member of the board of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, Wish Upon a Star and Grace Community Church. He is involved in the Rotary Club of Visalia and is a graduate of Leadership Visalia.
Strid and his wife, Kim, plan to stay in the community, watching their five granddaughters grow, and he has accepted a teaching position as an adjunct faculty member in the Health Care Administration department of Fresno Pacific University.
“There’s no way I could leave this place,” Strid said. “We love it here.”