You might think it’s a long way from getting a bachelor’s degree in political science to becoming the head of a major hospital – and you’d be right. But diligence, talent and a strong academic background have helped Roland Cruickshank ’94 mold his career into a steady succession of advances in healthcare administration. Now, he’s the new president of University Methodist Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Cruickshank, who went on obtain an M.P.A. (from the University of Charleston, SC) and a master’s in health administration, has worked in healthcare administration for two decades. In that span of time, he has risen from associate administrator to chief operating officer to vice president of operations – and now president – in a variety of different hospital systems. The College Today recently caught up with him to learn about his career and the significance of this new appointment at the helm of the 671-bed medical facility.

Can you put this new role into perspective for us regarding how it fits into your career?

I’m humbled by this appointment. The scope and scale of the academic work that goes on at Methodist University Hospital is impressive. This is a very well respected hospital whose medical staff and administrators are committed to teaching and clinical trials at the highest level.

The experience that’s required to succeed in this kind of a role is significant. In my 20 years of growing as a leader, I’ve learned how to build and develop people and teams. I feel that my appointment is really about that. It’s also important to have good mentors along the way. I credit several people in my past who’ve taken an active role in my career development. I’ve been very fortunate to have the benefit of their support.

Do the people in your past whom you’re crediting include anyone at the College?

Yes. I was fortunate to attend the College. There were several individuals there who helped guide my path. As a foreigner coming to the U.S. for the very first time – being away from my family for the first time – I had to make a substantial transition. [He is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.] There were a variety of people at the College who helped me assimilate to the Charleston area and college life in general.

Also, I was a student athlete at the College, playing on John Kresse’s basketball teams in the early ‘90s. We took the College to its first appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament. And with the help of several people, I learned how to balance academics and athletics. Quite a few professors and quite a few staffers were involved in that.

You’ve moved from a large hospital complex in Houston to a different, smaller market in Memphis. What are your goals as you transition to your new role?

Having spent the last seven years in Houston, a very dynamic area, has enabled me to hone my skills. Houston is a very competitive medical environment, and I believe that background will allow me to be effective in my new role in Memphis. My goal is to accelerate the transformation of University Methodist Hospital into a regional leader in this field. Ultimately, I’d like my new place of employment to be recognized as one of the top teaching universities in the nation.

What are you most looking forward to in Memphis?

It’s very exciting to get back to the south, so to speak. I expect the pace of life may be a little different than it is in Houston. And Tennessee is a very special part of the country. Also, being in Memphis will allow me to follow the Cougars basketball team more closely.

But seriously, it’s very important for me to be intentional about the teams and the people that I’ll be working with. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work with an incredible medical staff at University Methodist Hospital. For me, it’s the team that really makes the difference. That’s one of the things that makes this much more than a job to me. It’s really a calling.

Do you have any advice for students considering a career in hospital administration?

For me, this is an extremely fulfilling vocation. It’s very rewarding and challenging all at once, and I strongly recommend to anyone that might be interested that they give it close consideration. They won’t be disappointed.