Describing San Antonio as a growing community and an important healthcare market, Trip Pilgrim returned to town and to the Baptist Health System this week as chief executive officer, a position he held from 2005-2009.

Trip Pilgrim, CEO of Baptist Health.
Trip Pilgrim, CEO of Baptist Health System.

Pilgrim, 56, joins the previous CEO, Graham Reeve, who will now assume the title of president and chief operating officer.

“Health care is complex and hospitals are increasingly complex. We felt that bifurcating the leadership role and bringing in an additional resource to the system would be a good thing to do,” Pilgrim said. “I’ve been in this role before here in San Antonio and in other markets. It’s good to be back.”

Pilgrim returns to San Antonio from Dallas, where he served as senior vice president responsible for acquisition, corporate partnership, business development, and marketing strategy at Tenet Health. A two-time graduate of Vanderbilt University, Pilgrim has worked in health care and business for more than 30 years through positions with Ernst & Young, OrNda Healthcorp, and Vanguard Health Systems.

During the four years following his departure from San Antonio, Pilgrim served as senior vice president and chief development officer for Vanguard in Nashville, Tenn. Under his leadership, the company’s revenues doubled in three years, going from $3 billion to $6 billion. Tenet Health purchased Vanguard in 2013.

Pilgrim arrived in San Antonio earlier this week and while he is familiar with the San Antonio healthcare landscape, he said he has work to do when it comes to assessing the system and market and establishing new relationships.

“Health care is a local business,” Pilgrim said. “Every market is very different and how it responds to national trends is different. You can see some states are in different places on the evolutionary curve of value-based care. California is out there a little further than others.

“But the trends nationally – uncertainty in the Affordable Care Act … increasing demands on the part of large payers and self-insured employers to get value for their healthcare dollar … coming up with new reimbursement laws to achieve that … and then just generally continued pressure on reimbursement – those are the things that are happening across the country. It would be a little premature for me to speak to how that’s playing out in San Antonio having just got on the ground.”

Reeve joined the Baptist Health System in 2003 and worked in a variety of roles, including chief operating officer and CEO of St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital. Under his leadership, the system opened Mission Trail Baptist Hospital on the Southside, completed two major expansions at North Central Baptist in Stone Oak, and established the city’s first Accountable Care Organization. 

Reeve and Pilgrim worked together with UT Health San Antonio to help St. Luke’s become the first hospital in San Antonio to receive the primary stroke center certification in 2011.

There’s more to come, Pilgrim said.

“The thing we want to do is provide the best care we can,” he explained. “We want to make sure we’re providing an environment for our nurses and physicians to do what they do best. That can be accreditation programs, focuses on service lines, equipment – it could comprise several things. Our goal is to constantly move that quality needle forward.”

This could also include expansions to keep pace with city’s growing population.

“We want to make sure we continue to provide access points to serve the community, to make sure the community has the ability to access care when they need it,” Pilgrim said. “How you achieve that could  be any number of ways – could be de novo, could be acquisitions, could be partnerships.”

Though not originally from Texas, Pilgrim likes to say he got here as soon as he could. As for San Antonio: “I’m thrilled to be back,” he said. “My son lives here and went to school here. It will be nice hanging out with him, too.”

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the business beat reporter at the San Antonio Report.