Kathy Ruscitto, 62

St. Joseph’s Hospital CEO talks about her decision to retire and what’s on her bucket list

By Matthew Liptak

Q. We were all surprised to learn you’re retiring. Why did you decide to do it?

A. Well, I have worked for close to 40 years in this community in a lot of leadership roles and it felt like I had checked off the last goal last year. It felt that the pieces were coming together for me to move to a different stage of my life. I’m very proud of my 16 years here at St. Joseph’s. [It’s] a great team. We’ve accomplished a lot. As a leader I think it’s important to know not only what to focus on but to know when it’s time to pass the baton. For me all those pieces came together late last year.

Q. What was the last goal?

A. For St. Joseph’s to be positioned for the future of health care and we accomplished that in our joining together with Trinity Health as our system partner. [We’re] really beginning now the journey to develop a people-centered system of care.

Q. What’s the first thing you will do when you retire?

A. I’m planning to take three months to go through a period of really reflecting on what I’ve learned and how I want to use that learning in the next quarter. I read a great book called “Halftime.” The author’s name is [Bob] Buford. In it he talks about your career, [which it] is generally about building success; when you retire, you want to think about its significance. What are the things that you want to contribute? I’ve been so busy being a leader I feel like I’ve got to take some concrete time to reflect on what’s next.

Q. Will you consider moving out of the area?

A. This is my home. My family and my husband’s family are still here. My mom is still very active in the community. She’s 93. We’re still going to be very focused here, but we do spend a lot of time in the Adirondacks. That’s kind of our second home. It is just a very quiet, peaceful place — great people. I do a lot of hiking and a lot of kayaking. It’s a place where I go to think.

Q. Will you remain involved in the community?

A. Absolutely. This community nurtured my career and I owe a lot of gratitude to a lot of leaders. Partly I want to use everything I’ve learned to do some writing and teaching and coaching about the community. More to come about all that.

Q. What will you miss the most about the job?

A. The people. The colleagues that work here are really just wonderful, passionate healthcare providers. I don’t care if it’s our OB unit, our NICU, our cardiac unit or our home care program, or primary care physicians all over this community. St. joseph’s has a unique culture — really compassionate healthcare providers. I will miss being with them every day but I intend to keep very close going forward.

Q. What will you miss the least?

A. I think a leader in healthcare has so much packed into their daily agenda that some days there is not the time to think and reflect that I’m feeling a need to do right now. The fact that I’ll now have that time is something I’m excited about.

Q. Do you have a bucket list?

A. I have 18 things on the bucket list. I looked at it the other day and No. 1 on the bucket list is my family and being able to spend some more time with them. [Also] a lot of reading; a lot of reflecting of my career and what I’ve learned from others; some gardening, and some kayaking.

Q. What advice would you give to the new CEO who follows you?

A. I think there’s a culture. That culture is what has made St. Joseph’s successful and what makes patients say all the time this is where they want care. It’s about the people. It’s about the colleagues who provide the care. We’ve done a lot to engage the community, whether it be housing or job training. We’ve learned that healthcare and good schools, a clean environment, jobs…if you don’t pay attention to the other things in the community healthcare access alone is not going to solve all the problems. We are proud of our legacy in community engagement and hope to see that continue and know that it will.

Q. Is there a chance that you’ll work again?

A. [I’m] very, very much focused on contributing to the community in a much more limited way. I think it would be something very part-time. I’m turning 62 in May and just feel pretty strongly that I’m moving to a different way of living my life in this next quarter.

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