Top CEO: Rising Star Clay Franklin: Finding a love for health care

CEO Clay Franklin of Plaza

Name: Clay Franklin


First Job: Hot tar roofing summer job in high school. Tough job.

Best business advice: Make a decision, don’t get paralyzed in analysis; decide and move on.

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Best business book: Good to Great, by Jim


Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption. Every time it’s on TBS I can’t help but watch it yet again.

Best decision: Deciding to work in health care.

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Advice for people getting into business: Follow your passion, value relationships, live and lead by your core values and outwork others.

Fact Box II

Since Clay Franklin took over as CEO of Plaza Medical Center in August 2008, the 320-bed acute-care hospital has reached new milestones in minimally invasive cardiovascular and neurosurgical procedures, kidney transplants and stroke treatments.

–Plaza has become a comprehensive tertiary referral center not only for Tarrant County and but also for smaller community hospitals in a 90-mile radius of Fort Worth.

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–Plaza was named among the best hospitals in Texas by U.S. New and World Reports this year and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a “Magnet Hospital” for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in nursing practices.

—The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery has designated Plaza a “Center of Excellence.”

-Plaza is completing a $90 million expansion and offering advanced medical training to 70 residents and fellows specializing in family medicine, internal medicine, general surgery, cardiology, interventional cardiology and gastroenterology.

–This summer Plaza opened its new Primary Health Clinic to expand access to primary care in Fort Worth, and last year it opened the ER at Burleson, a full-service emergency care center in Burleson.

–Plans are moving forward to develop and build a $30 million emergency center and helipad adjacent to the main hospital in Fort Worth.

–Plaza developed the first Comprehensive Stroke Center in North Texas, and in February it will open its new inpatient rehabilitation center for stroke patients.

–Plaza started its kidney transplant program three years ago, performed 40 kidney transplants the first year after Medicare certification and is on track to perform 60 this year.

–Beginning this fall, physician specialists from Medical City, Plaza’s sister hospital in Dallas, will offer bone marrow transplant services in Fort Worth.

Clay Franklin was in the right place at the right time when he was appointed interim CEO of a major medical center less than a year out of graduate school, at the ripe old age of 25.

But he also gets credit for making the right decision – to give up a part-time paid job to accept an extra unpaid internship at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center because OU needed an administrative resident at its Health Science Center in Oklahoma City.

“I quit my part-time job to work for free, but in the process I fell in love with hospitals,” Franklin said.

His extra effort at OU, at the request of the dean of the College of Public Health, made Franklin the obvious choice when the CEO of Hillcrest Health Center in Oklahoma City called and asked the dean to send over his best post-graduate student because Hillcrest needed a vice president of operations – immediately.

That was in March of 1995. Six months later the CEO resigned, and Franklin was named interim CEO. For the next eight months, he ran Hillcrest and began preparing the hospital for a merger with SSM Health Care System, a Catholic healthcare system based out of St. Louis, Missouri.

And that’s when Franklin, an avid writer who grew up in Elk City, Okla., and had planned to move to New York and write screenplays and novels, discovered that his real passion was hospital administration.

“I was a lost soul there for a few years in college when I realized I was never going to be a great writer,” says Franklin, who ended up majoring in business administration at OU with concentrations in Japanese, economics, legal studies and art history.

“Serving as interim CEO at Hillcrest made me realize that I really wanted to work in a hospital, and I wanted to eventually run my own hospital,” Franklin recalled.

After five years with SSM, he was recruited by HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) to help set up a regional service center in Houston to consolidate business functions for 28 HCA hospitals. He went on to become COO at HCA’s CJW Medical Center, a 748-bed hospital in Richmond, Virginia.

In 2006, at age 35, Franklin, who wanted to move back to Texas and run his own hospital, was named CEO at HCA’S East Houston Medical Center. From there, he was recruited to Fort Worth to be CEO of Plaza Medical.

“Clay brings together a variety of leadership and result-oriented achievements that make him an exemplary CEO for us,” says Fort Worth attorney David Chappell, vice chairman of the Plaza board. “He has successfully implemented our Comprehensive Stroke Center, kidney transplant program, a series of incredible new heart procedures and stroke treatments with 40 percent better outcomes than older methods of treating the same problems.

“Clay is very adept at maintaining the highest quality in established programs while initiating new ones,” Chappell said.

U.S. News and World Report named Plaza Medical Center one of the five best hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and listed it 13th among 600 hospital in Texas for 2015.

In 2014, Plaza opened its full-service ER at Burleson and this summer it opened the new Plaza Primary Health Clinic in Fort Worth.

This fall, with Medical City, its sister hospital in Dallas, Plaza will begin offering bone marrow transplants in Fort Worth, and plans call for opening an in-patient rehabilitation center focusing on stroke patients in February.

Also in February, Plaza will break ground on a $30 million emergency center adjacent to the main hospital.

“We have advanced some world-class service lines. We are doing some things that others are not, and we are saving lives,” Franklin says proudly.

He also has served on the board of the Arts Council of Fort Worth and is a member of Fort Worth South, the community development organization revitalizing the Medical District.

“I also love soccer. I love to coach soccer, I love to play soccer and I love to watch soccer,” Franklin said. “I also love to swim and bike with my kids.”

Franklin and his wife, Brooke, have three children, Jack, Olivia and Charlie.