CHOC President and CEO Kim Cripe loves to garden.
This spring, she planted dahlias, whose multi-colored blossoms range from the petite to plate size.
“I like getting my hands dirty, plus the physical part and the wonder of it. You can put a seed in the soil and watch it grow and flourish,” Kim says. “I just love everything about it.”
Building and growing CHOC has been Kim’s focus since she landed here in the summer of 1991 as executive vice president and chief operating officer. She was appointed president and CEO in 1997.
“I saw an incredible opportunity to help redefine CHOC’s role in our region and to elevate the breadth and scope of its services,” Kim explains of joining the non-profit community hospital after a career in the for-profit healthcare industry.
“I like building things and watching them grow, as well as thinking about the future. Our board and our community were ready to take things to the next level, so CHOC was a good fit for me, and the timing was right for both of us.”
As Kim marks her 32nd year at CHOC and 26th year as its top executive, she has no plans of slowing down.
“Almost every decade,” she says, “we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do. And one of the things I love about CHOC is our large appetite. The more we achieve, the more we want to achieve in service to our community.”
During a recent interview about her time at CHOC and the exciting projects on the horizon, including the under-construction Southwest Tower, Kim admitted that she really doesn’t enjoy talking about herself.
But talking about CHOC and its mighty brigade is one of her favorite topics.
When asked what has kept her at CHOC for so many years, Kim does not hesitate to answer: “It’s the people. From the moment I began working at CHOC, I have been so inspired by our associates, our medical staff, our volunteers, and our donors. The passion and commitment of everyone at CHOC is the reason I have never left.”
Grew up in Bay Area
Born in Spokane, Washington, Kim was 6 months old when her parents relocated, to Carmel and then Palo Alto.
Kim grew up in the Bay Area enjoying science and initially wanted to be a doctor or veterinarian.
She attended USC as an undergraduate but transferred to the University of South Florida a few credits shy of graduating as a Trojan to follow her then fiancé. After graduating from the University of South Florida, Kim began her career in healthcare at University Community Hospital in Tampa, where she served from 1978 to 1984.
She then progressed in her healthcare career through a series of regional and corporate positions at Humana Inc., now known as HCA and United, before joining CHOC.
“I came to CHOC because I was attracted to joining a mission-driven organization,” she says. “The first time I walked through the doors, there was such a difference compared to the adult healthcare systems where I had been.
“At the beginning, it was a difficult adjustment because in the for-profit healthcare sector, we had different metrics – for example, quarterly earnings drove a lot of decision-making. It was so clear to me at CHOC that everything was about the patient and the family, and those priorities really aligned with my own internal compass.”
Kim’s three-decade career at CHOC is synonymous with some of the organization’s key milestones, including the opening of CHOC at Mission Hospital in 1993, the establishment of the Heart, Cancer and Neuroscience Institutes in 1999, followed by the Research and Orthopaedic Institutes in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and the opening of the Bill Holmes Tower in 2013, which made CHOC a free-standing children’s hospital.
Kim, who went on to receive her master’s degree in public administration, health services management, from Golden Gate University, says one of her proudest accomplishments is helping to establish CHOC as a leader in pediatric mental health with a system of care designed to be scalable and replicable by other pediatric health systems nationwide.
The cornerstone of the system is CHOC’s Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center, the region’s first pediatric inpatient mental health treatment center that includes specialty programming for children younger than 12.
“I give a lot of credit to our team and Chief Psychologist Dr. Heather Huszti,” Kim says. “It took a lot of courage to recognize that health is health and mental health is equally as important as physical health. With Dr. Huszti’s leadership and expertise, CHOC was among the first to passionately advocate for creating a fully-integrated system of care that addresses both.”
Innovation also has been a key priority for Kim. The CHOC Sharon Disney Lund Medical Intelligence, Information, Investigation and Innovation Institute, known as Mi4, is the hub for innovation at CHOC.
“With our commitment to academics, education, research, innovation, and elevating the organization comes commitments around building up CHOC’s workforce,” Kim notes.
“I have a huge interest in trying to navigate the challenges of our workforce and what CHOC can do to better support people’s personal and professional dreams because our people are our most treasured asset.”
In addition to running CHOC, Kim serves as the president of the CHOC Foundation, which is responsible for philanthropic fundraising to support CHOC’s mission, vision, and strategic plan.
Kim is a past chair of the Children’s Hospital Association board of trustees. She also is a member of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals board of trustees, where she chairs the strategy committee and is chair-elect.
Additionally, Kim is a member of the UC Irvine Chancellor’s CEO Roundtable and a member of the CEO Leadership Alliance of Orange County. She serves on the California Children’s Hospitals Association Board and is chair-elect and her work contributed to the successful passing of bond measures that provided billions of dollars in funding for critical capital improvement projects since 2004.
People and family are key inspirations
Kim says what she likes most about her job are the people – at CHOC and in the community.
“I’m in awe of our community and people who volunteer and give their time and generosity to help support our mission,” Kim says. “I draw inspiration and gain strength from that. And it’s important that our team realizes how much the community admires and supports what they’re doing.”
“It is so exciting that we are attracting leaders of a national caliber to CHOC who have that unbridled enthusiasm and want to drive substantial change in pediatric healthcare,” Kim says.
Kim marvels at her lengthy tenure at CHOC.
“The years have gone by so quickly,” she says.
Her husband, Glenn, a former standout college tennis player at UCI, has retired from his chiropractic practice and adopted a second career as a tennis instructor. He serves as the president of a national chiropractic association as well.
Kim’s oldest son works in renewable energy in Los Angeles, where he and his wife are raising a 5-year-old daughter.
Her middle son is finishing his undergraduate degree in San Francisco, and her youngest son is a staff assistant for a California Congressman.
When she’s not skiing, waterskiing, or hiking, Kim enjoys riding English equestrian with Doeke, her 18-year-old Friesian. Kim’s passion for horses began when she was a child, so you could say this hobby reminds Kim of the positive impact a happy childhood has on the life of a child.
“For me, there’s no greater privilege than serving children and their families. Serving children is one way we can change the future. That’s certainly one of the reasons I have devoted most of my professional career to CHOC. As much as I like planting seeds and seeing things grow, there is simply nothing more gratifying than contributing to the growth and development of a child into a happy and healthy adult.”