Off the Cuff with Claiborne: Rick Stevens
With a 25-year career in the health care industry that includes his current post as president of Christian Hospital in North County, Rick Stevens had seen a lot, but nothing could brace him for dealing with a global pandemic. No two days are alike for Stevens and his staff. Fashion might not be top of mind for him right now, but he still was able to share his style tips and tricks.
Do you remember when you first heard the word COVID?
January last year or maybe December of 2019. I didn’t think it would have the magnitude that it has taken on today. We’ve had other diseases like SARS and MERS come this way and been able to handle them.
When did you raise the levels of preparedness for your hospitals?
It was March 16. Right after St. Louis County had its first case of COVID-19, we set up our incident command center, and five days later, we had a testing site open. We have been in the battle ever since.
How do you deal with facts versus fiction when it comes to the pandemic, especially with the vaccine?
Early on, we did educational sessions about the pandemic. We’re still telling people to mask up, wash their hands and socially distance, but we also have to get the word out about the vaccine. Even though it was created quickly, scientists have been researching mRNA technology for quite some time. Coronaviruses aren’t anything new; this is just a new strain. The literature says the younger generation, especially in the African American community, are less willing to take the vaccine. They’re getting their information from the internet. They talk about cases like Tuskegee syphilis experiment or Henrietta Lacks, but those examples are very different from where we are today. We’ve even had doctors come in and talk to some of our frontline staff who were hesitant to get the vaccine themselves. We have to keep educating and being proactive, especially with how hard COVID-19 hit the Black community, especially North County.
How do you make sure non-COVID patients receive the care they need when it seems like the pandemic has taken over?
We’ve been communicating with our patients that they shouldn’t let their health care drop in priority. We have seen that people who didn’t continue their care now are coming in really sick. Don’t forgo your treatment, and make sure you stay in touch with your doctor. Continue to mask up, wash your hands and social distance, even after you get the vaccine because you may not get sick, but you can still carry the virus and transmit it to others.
How has it been supporting your staff as the leader of a hospital?
It’s been very challenging. Our staff is dealing with everything the rest of the world is, like also serving as teachers to their children who are learning virtually. It’s also been taxing to take care of a very sick population. The community has helped by sending us meals, which has built up the psyche of our staff. It’s a total team effort.
You’ve worked in many different places over the last 25 years. Why St. Louis at this stage?
The big question I get is why I left the San Francisco Bay area to move here. I had a great opportunity to come to BJC. I grew up in northern Illinois, and it was nice to come back to the Midwest. Even though we loved California—great food and scenic attractions—we love St. Louis as well.
Coolest thing about St. Louis that you’ve experienced so far?
St. Louis is a very giving city. Pre-COVID, you could go to a fundraising event every Friday or Saturday. It’s also a great sports city. Even though the football team left right when we got here, baseball is No. 1, and hockey is right up there, too. When the U.S. Open came, people really showed out for golf as well. That spirit and generosity are pretty unique about St. Louis
What should every man have in his closet?
A great pair of shoes and a nice shoe shine kit. I grew up in the era when my dad showed me how to shine shoes. I remember one of his buddies telling me he still wrapped his shoes in newspaper every day after shining them. You also ought to have a great blazer that you can dress up or down and a nice, pressed shirt because you never know who you’re going to run into.
Behind every great man, there’s a great woman. Does that apply to you when you’re shopping, or is it a one-person mission?
I like to get in and get out by myself. My wife and I are very supportive of each other, but if we go shopping together, it might take an extra two hours.
Favorite places to shop in St. Louis?
We didn’t have a Dillard’s in California, and I always loved that store when we lived in the Dallas area. I frequent Nordstrom, too. I also love the smaller stores that offer unique items, such as Bespoke. You can put your own flavor on a jacket or suit.
You wouldn’t be caught dead in what?
With the move to a virtual world, people have shown up for work in pajamas, but I don’t know if I would be caught dead in my sleeping wear or house shoes.
You like fine dining. Give me three places that are on your list in St. Louis.
The Crossing in Clayton, John Mineo’s in Town and Country, and something simple like 6 North Cafe.
Are you any kind of cook?
I like to get out on the grill.
What’s your go-to meal? The one thing you would serve to get into heaven.
We’re going to put some chicken and fish on the grill, and we’re also going to slowly cook some ribs out there. That’s more than one go-to meal, but we’re going to build a nice little charcoal fire, slowly cook those and make it great to eat.
Drink of choice?
A friend of mine and I have become good bourbon drinkers, so Glenlivet or Balvenie. In California, we were introduced to a lot of great wine. There’s not just one particular type I gravitate toward. It’s a variety, whatever tastes good that day.
Ballroom dancing or salsa?
Probably salsa. I like the spiciness.
Ascot or a smoking jacket?
I’ve not been a big ascot wearer. I’ll go with the smoking jacket.
Beach or mountains?
You and your wife are on a game show. What is the reason you guys would win?
She pays a lot more attention to things in the news, so all credit probably would go to her.