Meet Stephen Houghland, MD, vice president and chief medical officer with Passport Health Plan

Each month, Medical News catches up with a hospital or health system leader to learn about their organization,
interests and favorite pieces of advice.

Stephen Houghland, MD

Stephen Houghland, MD

• Hometown: Beechmont, Kentucky
• Family: Married to Rhonda, no children
• Previous Job: Medical director for University Physicians Associates and the University of Louisville Physicians
• Greatest Talent: Observing

What’s one thing that really piqued your interest in healthcare?
Several sports-related injuries as a youth/adolescent.

What’s one piece of advice you remember most clearly?
At the time I didn’t really understand that it was bad advice – “If you didn’t do it or see it done, it didn’t happen.” That’s not good advice in any setting that requires trust and teamwork.

What do you consider your greatest achievement at Passport so far?
That’s hard because really all our achievements are the result of so many people. If pressed, I would say that it is
being part of recruiting and supporting a high-performing team.

Were you in leadership roles when you were younger?
Yes. In student government and in sports.

How have your parents influenced your leadership style? Were there certain expressions that your parents would repeat often to you?
I don’t recall anything that they repeated to me; however, they definitely played a major role in my development and
as a result there has been some natural influence on my leadership style. They were tremendous examples of hard
work, determination, and integrity – all extremely important attributes.

Any feedback you’ve gotten over the years about your leadership style that made you think: “Fair point. I’m going to make an adjustment”?
Almost daily. The most formative feedback I received early in my career was about patience and demonstrating more of it … allowing people to sometimes fail, as long as the risks weren’t too great, because it was the best way for
them to learn.

What advice do you give to graduating college students?
Strive to learn something new every day. The perspective that time brings to a situation is hard to overestimate.

How do you revitalize yourself?
Spending time at home with my wife and pets. I also enjoy reading from almost any genre, yes even including “business.” We also enjoy traveling to new places, especially if a beach is involved.

What do you enjoy most about the Louisville area?
There really isn’t one thing. It’s such a welcoming community, the food scene is outstanding, and we love the ability
to take advantage of urban and outdoor activities without traveling.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
This is a difficult one. If I could speak to anyone living or dead, I would say either Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., although Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, or George Mason would be high on the list as well, all for different reasons. I enjoy history. Among the living, I would like to have a conversation with Atul Gawande, MD.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My wife, family, friends and health. So that wasn’t really one thing. I would also like to add that I am truly grateful for being part of an organization that sets out each and every day to make decisions that have a positive impact on our community.