Jeff Flaks, who in June celebrated his 15th year at Hartford HealthCare, became President and Chief Executive Officer of the state’s most comprehensive healthcare system Sept. 1 with a pledge to “deliver the results we want and that our communities deserve, provide a smooth transition and build on our many successes.”
What kind of leader will Flaks be? At 48, he’s still guided by lessons from his youth in Southern Connecticut. In this mini-flashback, for instance, he’ll draw comparisons to his time on the basketball court and his time in the Hartford HealthCare boardroom.
“Basketball was my real aspiration,” he says. “I eventually learned I didn’t have the height advantage, but I loved the game. It taught me a lot about hard work, tenacity and teamwork. In many ways, healthcare is a team sport.”
Flaks, who still coaches youth basketball, started his career in healthcare — whether he knew it or not at the time — by delivering pharmaceuticals. Later, while a graduate student at George Washington University, he attended an on-campus talk by Hillary Clinton on national healthcare reform. Inspired, he introduced himself to Clinton and eventually landed a volunteer internship from 1994-95 at the White House, working on the healthcare reform initiative.
Flaks joined Hartford HealthCare in 2004 as MidState Medical Center’s Chief Operating Officer before becoming Hartford Hospital’s Chief Operating Officer in 2007 and its president and CEO in 2011. He became Hartford HealthCare’s COO in 2013 and President in 2016.
Flaks replaces Elliot Joseph, who has retired. When Joseph became CEO in 2008, Hartford HealthCare included only Hartford Hospital and MidState Medical Center. Flaks now inherits a $4 billion healthcare system that includes six hospitals — with a seventh, St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, joining the system in October — and the state’s most extensive behavioral health network, a large physician group, a regional home care system, an array of senior care services, a large physical therapy and rehabilitation network and a sprawling network of urgent care centers.
What’s next for Hartford HealthCare?
“I want to create an environment where people think big,” says Flaks.