An unlikely duo?
Well, think again. Leadership—it seems—is a tie that binds.
Rich Miller, former president and CEO of Virtua Health and Joe Devine, former president and CEO of Kennedy Health System, have joined forces. They plan to use their expertise to give back to the community.
In May 2021, the two launched MillerDevine Leadership Advisors. The consulting firm’s mission: to help organizations and leaders be successful, not only in the healthcare industry –but all business sectors, including profits and non-profits as well as higher education.
“Leadership knowledge is transferrable,” explained Devine. “We believe we can help develop leaders, improve performance and build strong workplace culture.” They also plan to work with boards of trustees to assist in enhancing their effectiveness.
Why now? The need for their services, according to the business partners, is great. Many of the changes in organizations, they explained, are due to a world that has been dramatically altered because of the pandemic. “There’s definitely a need, especially post-pandemic, especially in healthcare,” said Miller, who has witnessed significant burn-out (emotional and mental) among nurses as well as all clinical professionals. “We are facing very difficult times. It wasn’t only the numbers; it was the frightening kind of care people had to give. There are nurses that have left the field, saying they can’t do this anymore. I’ve seen a lot of nurses in specialty areas over the years and they had tough jobs, but this was monumental.”
The two plan to help stabilize organizations to get them back on their feet, underscoring the importance and need for healthcare professionals. “Something Joe and I did well over the years was build culture and camaraderie,” said Miller, who has received national recognition, including an appointment to the Leadership Advisory Council of the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare.
The men have known each other for 30 years. “We were friendly competitors,” said Miller. “We have similar personalities and learned a lot from each other.”
Devine described Miller as a longtime mentor, noting they have much in common, including their integrity, values and faith. When Devine retired, Miller was one of the first people he called. “We’re both from South Philly,” said Devine, adding that they often crossed paths over the years at charity events and youth soccer tournaments. Both men are married and have two daughters. Miller’s daughters are 38 and 34; Devine’s are 34 and 31. “Rich and I saw each other on the soccer fields,” remembered Devine, as his 31-year-old and Miller’s 34-year-old played the sport as children.
Miller and Devine share a passion for leadership; their names are known and respected throughout the region. They feel this trust and familiarity will bolster their efforts. Their vision encompasses not only assisting leaders to be more successful and rebuilding, but also preparing future leaders to take on executive positions.
“Most people have been off-site for 18 months or more,” said Miller. “Due to the severity of COVID, there has understandably been a bit of separation between leadership and front-line clinical staff. The emotional and mental stress on clinicians has been significant. Making sure the bond between leadership and front-line staff is strong post-pandemic will be critical for the well-being of the team going forward.” The men feel enthusiastic about the task before them, but also a responsibility to the community.
Virtua Health, Kennedy Health System and Jefferson Health (which merged with Kennedy in September 2017) have long been immersed in the community. All have maintained a strong presence—in healthcare, of course—but also with charitable endeavors. Miller and Devine share that commitment. Both are past chairs of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey and the New Jersey Hospital Association. Each has received numerous accolades: Miller was named healthcare CEO of the year by the Philadelphia Business Journal and Devine was named an executive of the year by South Jersey Magazine, SJ Biz and NJ Biz.
The idea for the consulting firm evolved from an outdoor meeting that took place on a beautiful fall day in November 2020. They were called upon by a mutual friend and business associate for advice and direction. Devine started thinking that he and Miller might have something valuable to offer if they teamed up. “We were both interested in leadership, developing emerging leaders, helping organizations build cultures,” said Devine. So, he asked Miller if he wanted to collaborate. Miller didn’t hesitate. Not only did he agree that they would provide value and extraordinary insight, but they could have fun working together.
“We were all about engaging people,” reflected Devine of his leadership style as well as that of Miller’s. And they both believe in driving organizations from the top. “We’re not afraid to say this is what we would have done,” he added.
Devine said he and Miller spent decades working 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. This would be an entirely different enterprise. And in keeping with the times, their firm—for now—is offering virtual options. There is no physical office, but that may change as the business expands.
Miller, 68, retired from Virtua Health in 2017 after 36 years. He was CEO for 22 years and CFO and COO prior to that. He said he was always out and about, interacting with staff: clinical, administrative, support, every level. His stint at the health system included overseeing the merger in 1997 between what was then West Jersey Health System and Memorial Hospital of Burlington County. “I’m a rare breed,” chuckled Miller. “I understand numbers and I have a personality.”
Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in business and finance from Mount St. Mary’s University and an MBA from Southern Illinois University. In 2017 he received an honorary doctorate for leadership from Mount St. Mary’s University. In addition, he serves as executive-in-residence at Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business.
Devine, 64, retired in June 2020. His path to leadership was starkly different from Miller’s. “Through a variety of fortunate circumstances, I ended up having a wonderful career in healthcare,” said Devine, who initially dreamed of being a television news anchor. He began his 34-year stint at Kennedy as a member of the financial staff. He moved his way up through multiple positions, becoming CEO in 2013. “It was very rewarding to see Joe become CEO of Kennedy,” recalled Miller. Following the merger with Jefferson Health, Devine served as president, Jefferson New Jersey and executive vice president, Jefferson Health.
Devine earned his bachelor’s degree in organizational theory and accounting from La Salle University and an MBA from Saint Joseph’s University with a specialization in information systems.
Devine resides in Washington Township and Margate. Miller, who lived in Marlton for 30-plus years and later in Philadelphia, resides in Ocean City, New Jersey in the warmer months and will spend winters in a new home in Charleston, South Carolina.
Miller said he’s a strong believer in goal setting and feels it’s a critical component to success. When he was in his early 20s, he aspired to be a CEO of a healthcare organization. That goal evolved from a life-changing event. In Miller’s recently published guidebook, Leadership A Matter of Faith, he shares that transformational experience that led to his road to leadership. “I was in a really bad car accident when I was 21,” said Miller. “I was on life support and lived to talk about it. I had total kidney failure, was on a ventilator and eventually became addicted to Percocet. I sort of understood life a little differently than other 21 or 22-year-olds.”
Both men have clearly learned a lot over the years and are passionate about preparing for the future. “We’ve had a positive ability to impact the community,” noted Devine.
The two have been busy at work, garnering feedback from CEOs to get a feel for what they need to rebuild—emotionally and mentally. “Instead of going to a search firm, we can help create a template that will be tailored to fit (an organization’s) specific needs,” said Miller, acknowledging the current challenge of navigating new hires, of finding solid, good people. But the men are focused and committed to their mission.
“We’re not trying to conquer the world,” said Devine. “We’re trying to help organizations and leaders to be successful.”