In November 2020, 32-year-old Ashley Vertuno, FACHE, became HCA Healthcare’s youngest CEO. She took the reins of JFK Medical Center North Campus in West Palm Beach, Fla., a 245-bed acute care facility with an adjoining 88-bed behavioral health unit and some 650 colleagues total. That appointment exceeded even her own expectations.
“I wanted to be a hospital CEO by 35, so I beat my goal by three years,” says Ashley, now 33. “I can’t believe I’ve been here almost a year.”
Growing up in Richmond, Va., Ashley was familiar with HCA Healthcare. After earning her undergraduate degree in business administration and management from Virginia Commonwealth University and her master’s in health administration from the University of South Carolina, she took a position with HCA Healthcare’s Physician Services Group as a practice manager overseeing two physicians’ offices with Centerpoint Medical Center near Kansas City, Mo.
Though she hadn’t planned to leave HCA Healthcare, Ashley developed a great working relationship with the CEO at Centerpoint and followed her mentor to California and a position with Tenet Healthcare. Four years later, Ashley was again on the move, returning to HCA Healthcare as chief operations officer at Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Fla.
Ashley says there were several factors that drew her back, including a strong history of mentoring.
“The other key is the patient promise,” she says. “Our mission, above all else, is that we’re committed to the care and improvement of human life. The patient promise really resonates for me.”
Those attributes are reflected in the leaders who have supported Ashley during her career, colleagues like Barbara Simmons, R.N., CEO at Westside Regional Medical Center, and Heather J. Rohan, FACHE, a former HCA Healthcare CEO in Florida and Tennessee and president of the TriStar Division.
“The thing that I’ve learned from [Heather] is you have to raise your hand,” says Ashley. “If there’s something you want, you have to let people know. My boss, Barb, knew when I came in as the COO that I wanted to be a CEO.
“It comes down to having a conversation with your supervisor and just letting them know you’re interested in exploring [new opportunities]. It’s about relationships and connecting to other people. That’s very important.”
Today, Ashley finds herself in the role of mentor, encouraging others to pursue their goals — not only through her position at HCA Healthcare but also via her work with professional associations, such as the American College of Healthcare Executives. She is driven, in part, because she still has more to achieve.
“I’m still growing, and I’m still learning. Every day I learn something new. I cannot tell you how supportive my peers have been. That speaks volumes about the culture that we have at HCA Healthcare.”