Sunday, July 3, 2022 Jul 3, 2022
97° F Dallas, TX

Why You Need to Know Raji Kumar

The CEO succesfully resuscitated Dallas Medical Center.
By |
Why you need to know her:

Because CEO Raji Kumar helped suture an open wound at Dallas Medical Center when it was bleeding $2 million a month. When she got to the Northwest Dallas hospital in 2010, Kumar remembers there being just four cars in the parking lot and 17 patients inside. She and her husband had driven down from Michigan, not anticipating that the hospital’s finances would be in such disarray that she would have to use her own credit card to pay the hospital’s electric bill. 

“I had to close down an entire floor because the roof was leaking and I couldn’t afford to fix it,” Kumar says. “The only line of credit for this hospital that I could find was my personal American Express credit card.” 

In 2014, the hospital posted EBITDA of $18.7 million on revenue of $94.1 million.

It’s a much different story now. In 2014, the hospital posted EBITDA of $18.7 million on revenue of $94.1 million. Revenue in January of this year reached $8.7 million, netting the hospital more than $2 million. That was the best-performing month in the hospital’s history—and the direct inverse of the financial state before Kumar, 40, got there. 

The facility’s location near the intersection of Interstates 35E and 635 is a blessing and a curse. Although the hospital is easily accessible to residents in North Dallas, Farmers Branch, Carrollton, and Irving, the behemoths Medical City Dallas and Texas Health Presbyterian are just about 15 minutes east of the facility. On a wall opposite her desk, Kumar has a giant map of North Texas with dozens of her competitors marked. It’s either a taunt or a reminder. 

For years, those rivals buried the 155-bed, 574-employee hospital. The hometown Tenet Healthcare Corp. managed the hospital until 2007, eventually transferring the reins to Hospital Partners of America, a North Carolina-based company that promptly filed for bankruptcy the very next year. Physician Synergy Group snapped up the hospital in 2010. 

It underwent three name changes at the end of the 2000s. Existing for decades as R.H. Dedman Memorial Hospital—Kumar cringes at the morbid proper noun: “That name!” she scowls from a hallway on the first floor—it was rebranded as RHD Memorial Hospital, then as Dallas Medical Center. In 2012, California’s Prime Healthcare Services acquired the facility and brought stability. Kumar says Prime lets her roam freely, employing the strategies that she considers to be the best fit.

The leadership before her knew something would have to change for the hospital to stay afloat. They decided to focus on specialty services and technology. But the hospital’s relationships with area physicians were severely frayed. In 2009, the president of its former management group told The Dallas Morning News that he hoped a “talking bed” would woo doctors back into its halls. Kumar landed less than a year later, with no talking bed and countless relationships to repair. “The challenge was finding the doctors to take care of the patients—why these doctors had to come,” she says. “So I had to quickly think fast and look at what program is out there that nobody wants to do: workers’ comp. Nobody wanted to take care of the injured workers’ comp patient. Paperwork is a headache, [and] billing and collection for that, you have to fight.” 

After establishing a thriving workers’ comp specialty program, Kumar mimicked this approach for maternity and obstetrics, hand and spinal surgeries, wound care, orthopedics, and neurology. Dallas Medical Center may have a small emergency department, but it’s made its money acting more like a specialty hospital. And its success made Kumar a no-brainer to also lead the nominally larger (202 beds) Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite, which Prime Healthcare closed on in March. 

Kumar, it’s clear, is incredibly personable. Walking through Dallas Medical Center with her feels more like strutting through a high school campus with the approachable cool kid. She’s high-fiving everyone who passes her, asking about their kids, inquiring about their departments. She knows their names. She says she’s like this with the doctors, too. Kumar says she has driven to Midland to meet a physician who refers patients to the hospital, rare for a CEO.

Now, let’s get hypothetical: Kumar has had a rapid ascent. And she’s embedded in the operations of her hospital. She knows the daily census, and she was also the one to figure out the hospital was being conned by thieves posing as medical device dealers. (She launched her own investigation and handed her findings to the feds in a binder filled with an 8-inch-thick stack of documents.) 

But will this hands-on style work if she wants to run a bigger shop? That’s the question her friend Britt Berrett poses. “We’re sitting at dinner and had a conversation about that—can she scale this experience? Can she run a 900-bed hospital with the same type of detail?” the former Presbyterian chief asks. “It’s clear that her fingerprints are on everything. You can’t do that in a big facility; you have to be comfortable delegating that.”  

Ten minutes later, Berrett answers his own question: “I’m of the opinion that she absolutely can.”