Left to Right: Rick Slager on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1976. Rick today in 2020 as CEO of INVU Care. INVU Care’s Patient Kiosk.
I recently sat down with Rick Slager to talk about football, healthcare, and a life well-lived. – Matt Smith
Meet Rick Slager: College Football Phenom turned Healthcare Innovator
Can we talk about football? You were the man, the quarterback at the University Notre Dame. What was that like?
Rick: I was raised around the game of football and always imagined playing at a high level. My father, in fact, was a much better athlete than I ever was. He started during World War II as a freshman at quarterback for Ohio State back in the 1940s.
I was truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to attend the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship and be named the starting quarterback my last two seasons during my undergraduate. While I was in law school at ND, I was on the sidelines as an Assistant Coach. I studied playbooks for my football team, and the law books for my family.
At that time, I honestly thought my future would be in coaching at the college level, but that changed quickly when I realized upon graduation from law school, I had a family of 4, soon to be 5, and I better find a career that was a little more reliable than coaching.
Quarterback Rick Slager (#11) and the 1976 University of Notre Dame football team.
“I became frustrated with the most persistent problem: healthcare needs greatly exceed our human and financial capital resources.”
It sounds like you knew what you were all about, and you moved forward with confidence. …did I ask you if you knew Rudy? I mean, that was a big movie, all set in the mid-70s at Notre Dame.
Rick: Yes Rudy attended Notre Dame during my tenure and he was a friend of mine as well as many others. Let me just say, I absolutely loved the movie, remain very happy for Rudy, but now have a much greater appreciation and understanding of the power of Hollywood embellishment…
—I’ll stop you there. I want the movie to remain as it is. Next question…. how does your experience in NCAA football translate into the professional world?
Rick: For me, college sports taught me how to lead a team. I learned that if we all are dedicated and keep the focus we can achieve a common goal. And that is central to every new chapter of my life.
Let’s talk about chapters. I’ve learned that your Assisted Living company became the third largest in the US. Why did you move into software and telemedicine?
Rick: I’ve been in healthcare for 40 years, and Karrington Health—my AL company—that you mentioned was a big part of that. Through it all, through many decades, I became frustrated with the most persistent problem: healthcare needs greatly exceed our human and financial capital resources.
So in healthcare, we just can’t work harder. We need technology on our side to help us do more with less. What gift could I give others in healthcare? Can we make something that would make all of their lives easier? Let them give better care to their patients? This is INVU Care. This is a game changer.
And, yes, we are a technology company. But the foundation of all of our apps is empathy. We care about people and we want to help them. I think this is why healthcare providers who use INVU find it so effortless. It helps them do their job better. We make caring easier. Care teams are equipped to do more than what they could before. This is the stuff of dreams. How can you not get excited about this?
It sounds like the real excitement for you didn’t start until after football. And it’s only getting better with each new project. I like stories like this. What about your dad, what did he do after throwing for Ohio State?
Rick: Dad became an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up. That’s another story for another day. But later in life, I hired him to be the Chief Medical Officer for one of my companies. It was rewarding to follow in his footsteps as a college athlete, and then into healthcare. Even better that we got to work together.
Generations! Any advice for young people entering the world of healthcare?
Rick: Doing healthcare right is exhausting and at times frustrating and demanding. However, you will never have to wonder if your life had meaning and purpose, two of the most questioned issues all of us will someday face ourselves.
That’s perfect. Let’s finish there. But before we leave, can you sign my vintage Rick Slager edition of Sports Illustrated?
Rick: Sure. Where’s your Sharpee?