Michael Elliott

Love and basketball (and health care)

Michael Elliott takes the reins as VCU Health System’s first operating officer

A basketball game twice changed the course of Michael Elliott’s life. The second game eventually led him to become the first operating officer of VCU Health System.

And the first game? We’ll get to that one.

An avid athlete, Elliott, Pharm.D. (Pharm.D.’02; M.S.H.A.’07), had been working as a pharmacist in Richmond after earning his pharmacy degree from VCU in 2002, when he played in a pickup game against students from VCU’s health administration department. “We really got into it,” Elliott recalls with a chuckle.

That game led to friendships and a new career interest. In 2005, Elliott enrolled in VCU’s Master of Science in Health Administration program.

“Working in a clinical setting, I really love to be able to impact patients and families one on one,” Elliott says. “What I came to see is that if you take on your administrative and leadership duties with the same focus, you can impact all your colleagues as well.”

Elliott started at VCU Health in May. His role encompasses the main hospital and other health operations on the MCV Campus, and clinics and hospitals across Virginia. He comes to VCU from Centra Health in Lynchburg, Virginia, where, at various times, he served as vice president of operations, senior vice president and chief transformation officer, and interim CEO.

Elliott previously worked in pharmacy and pharmacy administration. He credits mentors at the VCU School of Pharmacy for sparking a passion for the economics of health care. He was very thoughtful about big issues, recalls David Holdford, Ph.D., who teaches the economics of pharmacy. “Coolheaded under pressure, too.”

Professor Gretchen Brophy, Pharm.D., remembers Elliott’s cheerful demeanor. “He was always smiling and very personable.”

Elliott, who graduated cum laude, says he learned more than pharmacy from his teachers and fellow students. Some classmates were starting families or preparing for second careers. “I was just 20 years old when I started pharmacy school,” Elliott says. “The folks there helped me understand a lot about life. Seeing them handle jobs, families and significant others, it taught me so much.”

Helping colleagues find similar balance has become his life’s work. “I consider it a mission and ministry to make sure my colleagues have the absolute best work experience they can have,” he says. “That has a profound impact on them and their patients and on our colleagues’ families.”

Elliott and his wife, Lashelle, a high school teacher and basketball coach, have been together since high school. They met at age 13 … on the basketball court. They have three children: Christian, 19; Donovan, 16; and Evan, 13; and a chocolate Lab named Tucker.

And that pickup game that changed his career? Who won?

“We did, of course,” Elliott says, laughing. “Well, that’s how I remember it, anyway.”