By Arthur Lightbourn
Vic Buzachero, (pronounced “Buzz-a-kero”) is Scripps Health’s corporate senior vice president of innovation, human resources and performance management, a hefty title, to be sure, but one that accurately describes the scope of his contribution to the remarkable turnaround of Scripps Health over the past 10 years.
Earlier this month, in recognition of his achievements, Buzachero was named to HR [Human Resource] Executive Magazine’s Honor Roll for 2011 and in an accompanying article was headlined as “The Turnaround Kid.”
He especially appreciated the ‘kid’ part, Buzachero said, “now that I’m 60.”
Also recently, Scripps Health, the San Diego-based nonprofit community health system of five acute-care hospitals and 23 outpatient clinics staffed by 13,200 employees and 2,500 affiliated physicians, was ranked by AARP as the No. 1 company in the U.S. for workers over age 50.
“We consider Scripps to be a career destination company,” Buzachero said, “therefore we design our human resources programs to appeal to all people, no matter what stage of life they may be in. Approximately 36 percent of our workforce is age 50 or older, and we work to retain them because the knowledge they pass down ultimately results in better outcomes for our patients.”
Recently, for the fourth year in a row, Fortune Magazine named Scripps Health as one of the 100 best companies in the nation to work for, and, for the seventh consecutive year, Working Mother magazine recognized it as a top employer of working moms and this year ranked it as #11 of the top 100 companies for its learning opportunities, flexible work schedules, on-site daycare and adoption benefits program.
We interviewed Buzachero in his office at Scripps Health’s headquarters in La Jolla.
He’s a tall, well-built man with slightly graying hair, who, to keep in shape for the winter snow-ski season, works out “constantly” — running, training with weights, and climbing the stairs to his second floor office several times a day rather than ride the elevator.
Talking across neatly-stacked piles of papers on his desk, Buzachero readily concedes “I’m not a clean-desk guy,” but he is an avid jotter of ideas in a little black book that invariably accompanies him wherever he goes; and on occasion — in a bow to technology — substitutes his iPad to record the continual flow of ideas and “to do’s.”
“Sometimes even the best idea is not a good idea until the timing is right,” he says.
Buzachero was recruited by Scripps Health in September 2001 at a time of crisis when the then 77-year-old Scripps was on life support and hoping to recover and restore itself under its new president and CEO Chris Van Gorder as “a workplace of choice.”
Scripps had ousted its former CEO, doctors had fled, there was a labor shortage, the company was facing significant operating losses, and the human resources department was foundering.
The company’s new leadership convinced Buzachero of their belief that Scripps’ employees were crucial to revitalizing the company’s brand and culture — it just needed someone to create a human resource department that would carry out that philosophy.