Sylvia Young

In the Arena with Sylvia Young

Sylvia Young is the President and Chief Executive Officer at HCA Continental Division, this division includes HealthONE in Denver, CO and Wesley Healthcare in Wichita, KS. In 2019, Sylvia was recognized by the DBJ as one of Colorado’s Most Admired CEOs and an Outstanding Woman in Business.

2020 is shaping up to be another big year for healthcare policy in Colorado, what issues are you tracking? HCA is very interested in being part of the conversation around health care affordability. We sympathize with employees who have high cost, high deductible, plans and in October we committed to patient-friendly billing and collection practices. 

What is your approach to advocacy and has that approach changed over the years? As the rising cost of healthcare continues to be debated, we need to be part of it. We can’t hide behind “Oh healthcare is complicated”, we have to be dedicated to educating business leaders and legislators about why healthcare is complicated. That includes explaining how hospitals are reimbursed and where our costs don’t get covered, namely through Medicare and Medicaid.

Advocating at the federal and state level is a big part of my job and I was lucky to be elected to the Board of the American Hospital Association. This has enabled me to see what people are struggling with in Texas and how that’s different from what people are struggling with in Kansas. It has reinforced to me that healthcare is best when it is local. When the best ideas from local market innovation can percolate up, rather than a one size fits all solution coming down from the federal government. 

Can you speak to the role of business in Colorado politics? We have an obligation to be philanthropists, to give back to the community and to be involved in the debate. I also think the business community shouldn’t be embarrassed about our motive to have a return on investment. We are investing significantly in our community and HCA is proud to be the only tax paying health system in the state.

As an individual, what are you focused on philanthropically? At HCA we have a Hope Fund where employees can apply for assistance in times of need. It’s a wonderful program and I give at the Leadership Level. It helped after the floods in Houston and recently helped a single mother of two who had back to back cancer diagnoses. I am also a big advocate for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and a big contributor to St Andrews Methodist Church. St Andrews is particularly interested in homelessness, isolation, and loneliness. We have a very forward thinking senior pastor who does a lot of outreach into the community. 

From your unique vantage point, what are the biggest opportunities for the state in the coming year? We have to take advantage of the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation. Colorado has so many women owned and minority owned small businesses. It’s important to keep a regulatory free environment so that these businesses grow and thrive. It’s who we are, it’s our history, and since I moved here in the mid 80s it’s something I have been particularly proud to see grow.

The employer community and the General Assembly don’t always see eye to eye. For this upcoming session, what suggestions do you have for a more constructive working relationship? It is important for us all to keep an open mind and, in the spirit of collaboration, to focus on what is best for Colorado. 

Why are you a member of Colorado Concern? The intellectual stimulation. Colorado Concern has some of the most tenured leaders in the business community, they are all CEOs and generally have been in their roles for quite a period of time. I always learn something at board meetings and enjoy getting snippets from experts in different industries. I am impressed with the diversity of the membership and the willingness to speak out on issues and put in personal time. 

Lightning Round:

Who inspires you? My father inspired me with his Christian beliefs and his work ethic. I was fortunate to have a dad who encouraged me and told me I could do anything. I am also fortunate to have a husband who is doing that for our daughters. I think it’s the dads of the world, the ones who motivate their daughters, who are the unsung heroes in our communities today. 

What is your favorite place in Colorado? Edwards, Colorado. That’s where I go to fill my cup. 

What are you reading? The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments by Meik Wiking

What is your favorite restaurant? Matsuhisa in Cherry Creek or Izakaya Den. I love sushi.


December 18, 2019