Collaborating Across the Corridor: Connecting with the Community
Aaron Byzak was born at Tri-City Medical Center, and now he has come full circle as the hospital’s Chief External Affairs Officer.
“This is the hospital that serves the healthcare needs of my family, my neighbors, my friends, and everyone in my community,” said Byzak. “If ever there was a place for me to bring what talents I might have, this is the place to do it.”
Byzak grew up in the Tri-City area, went to Carlsbad High School, did his undergraduate studies at MiraCosta College, and then went on to Chapman University and UC Irvine for his graduate studies.
While attending school in Orange County and later working for the County Board of Supervisors and UC San Diego in the city of San Diego, he stayed in North County and commuted from here.
“I love everything about North County,” said Byzak. “There’s a neighborhood, small-town feel to North County, but it has matured dramatically over the years. We’ve got great collaboration across the 78 Corridor that doesn’t exist in a lot of places. The time of a person living and working in the exact same city – that’s not how it necessarily works anymore. They might live in my city but work in your city, and we need to collaborate on such things. I think that makes us really unique.”
Meeting 21st Century Needs
Byzak joined the Tri-City Medical Center team in 2018, and since then, he has been working on improvements in the facility and organization. As CEAO, he is responsible for marketing, communications, government affairs, community engagement, patient transportation, and hospital interiors (or internal branding, as he calls it).
“The hospital needed some love, and I stepped into that role to help. We’ve fundamentally changed how it looks,” said Byzak. “The idea is to bring the hospital out to the community and bring the community into the hospital, visually and otherwise.”
One of the ways Byzak and his team have brought the community into the hospital visually is to rename and rebrand their three towers after the three cities they represent. Each tower got its own color – aqua for the lagoons in Carlsbad, deep blue for the Oceanside harbor, and orange representing the sun in Vista’s temperate climate.
Photos of each city (taken by local photographer Aaron Chang) are hung in their respective towers, making the towers both beautiful and functional, helping with way-finding throughout the hospital.
Pockets of Awesome
The elevators were wrapped in high-resolution images, so when the doors open, it looks like a view out of a window. “Heroes Posters” were hung inside and outside the facility, honoring employees, giving a face to patients’ care, and creating what Byzak calls “Pockets of Awesome – finding something awesome to look at in an otherwise nondescript building that is visually appealing, educational, and dimensional.”
All of this was done to celebrate the hospital’s 60th anniversary last year. Since the pandemic still made throwing a party impossible, Byzak suggested this hospital facelift instead.
“A party, people forget, and most people don’t get to attend. This has longevity. It has a lasting effect on people,” said Byzak. “It changes the way you perceive your care, the way you perceive your employer. Those things are really powerful.”
Tri-City’s Impact on the Region
As a major workplace provider, Byzak called TriCity Medical Center an “economic engine for North County with exceptional healthcare.” Many non-Tri-City affiliated medical and dental practices, cleaners, restaurants, and more grew in the area due to the presence of the hospital.
“This hospital was one of the first things along the 78 freeway. Right where we’re sitting right now, there used to be an old drive-in movie theater along the two-lane 78 freeway. This entire region has really grown around this hospital,” said Byzak.
On the medical side, Byzak said that Tri-City has some of the top heart, stroke, and robotic surgery programs, and the work they do at Tri-City is directly invested in helping people with at-risk backgrounds achieve their goals. They do this through their COASTAL Commitment program (Community Outreach And Support Through Active Leadership), now partnering with 87 other organizations to support them in their efforts.
The COASTAL Commitment
“We can partner with [an organization like a] homeless service provider with funding, be active leaders with them, sit on their boards, and volunteer with them to help elevate their capabilities and call attention to the work that they’re doing,” said Byzak.
“We see where there are synergies among people who might not be working together or might be working in silos. Then we put something together that helps break down the silos and gives a rallying point around which everyone can come together.”
One such rallying point is the SOCAL Workforce (Student Opportunities for Career Awareness and Learning), a collaborative program between education and industry created by Tri-City Medical Center, the San Diego North Economic Development Council and Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, Greater Escondido, San Marcos, and Encinitas Chambers of Commerce. The vision is to give students and transitioning adults insights into career pathways, while allowing businesses and local organizations to participate in these students’ career exploration.
Learning as a CEAO
Much of Byzak’s job involves meeting with people and groups, overseeing external interactions, gathering information about current happenings, and discerning where all those things meet to overlap with the hospital’s interests and mission.
Byzak said he “creatively finds ways to convey to our stakeholders, constituents, and potential patients what it is that we’re really good at, what we need in partnership, and what we can offer in partnership to tackle big initiatives that we would have a hard time doing individually.”
This process has solidified his knowledge of the importance of the collaborative approach to marketing – communications, government affairs, and community engagement all interplay with each other, and one needs to have experience in each of these areas to help an organization navigate them successfully.
“Meet North County Stewards” is a writing series produced by Caitlyn Canby for the San Diego North Economic Development Council, a multijurisdictional economic development organization. To learn more about SDNEDC and opportunities for investing, contact CEO Erik Bruvold.
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