Meet Tori Bayless, our President & CEO
On July 1, Tori Bayless officially became CEO of Anne Arundel Health System. Although she’s no stranger to AAHS, having been part of the family since 2005, Tori shares some insight into her life outside work and how she became a healthcare leader.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in New Jersey as the third of four children—siblings are good for teaching one humility!
I am 100% Irish-American. All four grandparents immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1920s. None were educated beyond eighth grade because they had to work on the family farms. (My husband calls me a “thoroughbred”—being compared to a horse is not good for my body image!) All came over seeking greater opportunity and found it in New York City where they met each other, married and raised their families.
I grew up Irish dancing (before it was popularized by Michael Flatley and River Dance) so I had to restrain myself during our Cultural Diversity Festival last month from joining in with the little Irish step dancers—maybe next year!
My parents emphasized education as the key to any future success in life. They instilled confidence in me at a young age. I credit them with developing my work ethic and focus on community service. My mom is a nurse and my dad is a retired chemical engineer. Mom can’t bring herself to retire but has the luxury of setting her own schedule these days. All things considered they’re healthy, still happily married after 45 years and enjoying a little traveling—both great role models for me!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What kind of student were you?
Growing up, I was a good student (by most counts!). I sought and pursued leadership roles early on. I was student council president in high school.
Are you married? Any kids?
Yes, I’ve been married 16 years (first and only). My hubby Mike is an accountant turned high school math teacher. He is very supportive of me and my career. I would nominate him as husband and father of the year if I could find the right venue!
My kids Connor and Caroline are heading into seventh and fifth grades respectively. They keep me busy staying up with their activity schedules year round—soccer, football, swimming, basketball, lacrosse, horses, sailing, drama, chorus.
What are some of your hobbies?
Some people “work to live” and others, like me, “live to work.” That may sound a little twisted, but I love what I do and always look forward to the next big challenge. When it comes to hobbies, this is where the “work-life balance” stuff comes into play. Once upon a time I’d have said reading, mountain biking and traveling were my hobbies, but in all honesty, since having kids, my time away from work is consumed (in a good way!) with all of their “stuff.” I probably find balance in imbalance—it’s my “normal” and, given the role model I have in my Mom, it always seemed normal that she was able to successfully balance being a full-time mom, wife and career woman.
How did you get into healthcare?
I attended Tufts University and majored in Biology and Community Health and worked various work-study jobs. I went on to attend graduate school at University of Michigan School of Public Health and got a Master of Health Services Administration. (It’s like a hybrid degree of an MBA and MPH.) In grad school, I did some research assistant work on the appropriateness of cardiac procedures, as well as research on access to expert malpractice representation by different demographic groups.
I volunteered in two New Jersey hospitals starting at age 13 and throughout high school. I worked at the front desk, medical records, delivered magazines and newspapers, and other duties as assigned.
The most rewarding high school volunteer work was with “boarder babies” at Jersey City Medical Center. Back then, many babies born addicted to drugs were taken from the custody of their mothers by state social services. They were “boarders” at the hospital—basically lived there—some for as long as two years before adoption, foster care or returning to their biological family. (I got early exposure to the great need for child life specialists.) I also did various work-study jobs and internships in college at Mount Sinai in New York and New England Medical Center in Boston.
I gained insight into health and social disparities as a youngster and this certainly drove my passion and desire to work in healthcare.
What other jobs have you had?
My earlier work experiences included scooping ice cream and waiting tables at Friendly’s and Red Lobster in high school and college.
I joined Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC, fresh out of graduate school and stayed with them almost 13 years in various roles. I learned a lot and tried to contribute in various ways.
I joined Anne Arundel Health System in 2005.
On July 1, you transitioned to CEO of AAMC. What are your top priorities?
My priorities are building upon the success of the health system and our positive culture. They include Vision 2020; higher quality, lower cost; diversity and inclusion; quality aims (individual care, affordable care, community care); patient satisfaction; smart growth; workforce development; strengthening our community partnerships; and financial stability.
Tell us a little about our 10-year strategic plan Vision 2020: Living Healthier Together. How will you define and measure our success?
The last 10 years have been about strategic growth—we expanded our campus and added programs and services to meet the needs of our community. With Vision 2020, our challenge is to create a new system of care. It’s about providing patient-centered care with higher quality and lower cost. You’ll start to see us partner with groups outside AAHS and work together to remove barriers and bring better healthcare to our community. It’s also about employees being role models for the community. You’ll see more emphasis on caring for the caregiver including health coaching, stress reduction and more. Our goals are increasingly more focused on improving health and quality of life. This means thinking differently about how we measure success. For example, in addition to delivering healthy babies, we work toward reducing infant mortality. You’ll hear a lot more about Vision 2020 in the coming months and years for sure. All employees should have received a letter at home from me during the first week of July that talks about Vision 2020. Also, at the town halls this September I’ll be talking at length about Vision 2020.
How can Nursing best support you in your new role?
Don’t tell my Mom when I make a mistake! But seriously, continued emphasis on patient- and family-centered care and cultural diversity are critical to our continued success as are all the elements of the Nursing Strategic Plan. Nurses drive patient satisfaction. I’m excited about our efforts around “care of the caregiver” (including the new COPE program as well as veteran staff), and upping our game with regard to care standards. The better care we take of ourselves, the better care we can provide to our patients.
Does your mom, a nurse, ever give you any advice? What has she taught you that has helped you in your career?
Countless hours of advice and counseling! Here are inspirations from Mom and Dad and other elements of my life philosophy that have developed over the years:
Honesty and integrity earn trust.
Your strength of character will be tested repeatedly.
Demonstrate patience and humor. (I pray for patience because I’d like to be better at that!)
The Rudyard Kipling poem “If” was framed and hung in our family room growing up. It was first published in 1910 and still rings true. [Click here to read this poem.]
If you weren’t CEO of AAHS, what would you be doing right now?
Serving ice cream at Friendly’s! Actually, I’m not really sure other than to say I’d be working in the non-profit world trying to make a difference.