Meet Charles Li, M.D., Regional Hospital Administrator for Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta

September 10, 2019

Charles Li, M.D., joined the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities as the regional hospital administrator of Georgia Regional Hospital – Savannah on January 2, 2006.  Prior taking this position, he was the corporate clinical director for Howell Care Centers, a non-profit organization serving 550 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in North Carolina, and previously worked as a psychiatrist in both inpatient and outpatient settings and as a clinical professor/research scholar in the Department of Psychiatry at East Tennessee State University.  Dr. Li has served DBHDD in numerous capacities, including director of hospital operations and assistant commissioner for developmental disabilities.  Currently, he is the regional hospital administrator for Georgia Regional Hospital – Atlanta.  He earned a doctor’s degree in Medicine from Nanjing Medical College and a master’s degree in Health Care Administration from Armstrong State University.  

"Dr. Li is an extremely experienced DBHDD administrator.  He has held hospital leadership positions in two of our state hospitals.  He has also previously led the Division of Developmental Disabilities.  Regardless of his position, Dr. Li is always a gentleman, a voice of reason, and a solid rock no matter the magnitude of the storm.  We are fortunate to have him back in the Division of Hospital Services."

Emile Risby, M.D., DBHDD Medical Director

Recently, Dr. Li took time from his busy calendar to speak with David Sofferin about how he manages his time at work and what his greatest talent is away from work. 

What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up?

When I wake up in the morning, I usually go over the tasks that I need to do for the day and try to prioritize them. I will fix a breakfast for me and my wife. Then I go to work.

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at work? 

When I arrive at the office, I check and respond to my email. I also read all critical incident reports (CIRs) to see if any critical incidents occurred overnight.

How often do you round and meet with your staff?

I meet with my staff daily in different areas of the hospital. At noon, we have our daily administrative meeting where we 1) hear a report on new admissions in the last 24 hours, 2) review all critical incident reports, 3) look at projected discharges and how many people are waiting to be admitted, and 4) we discuss treatment issues and other important issues on campus.

How much time do you spend with your direct reports?

I spend between 30 to 45 minutes daily with my direct reports in a group meeting. I also meet each one of my direct reports monthly for one hour.

What is the most challenging part of your day?

For now, the most challenging part of my day is to make inpatient beds available to admit new patients. We have between 45 to 75 referrals daily. Maximizing our capacity and prioritizing admissions is my daily challenge.

What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of work?

At age 5, I started playing the violin. I always wanted to go to a music school, but my father told me to go to medical school because he was a surgeon. I played in a community orchestra when I lived in North Carolina.

What are some of the key goals you hope to accomplish in Fiscal Year 2020 at Georgia Regional Hospital/Atlanta? 

The key goal we will accomplish in FY 2020 is to expand our inpatient capacity by 16 beds utilizing savings from our current budget. This additional capacity will help us accept referrals faster and alleviate burdens on emergency departments and other referral sources.

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far at Georgia Regional Hospital/Atlanta?

The greatest achievement for me in this hospital is to bring the facility back into compliance with the Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid standards. A few years ago, the hospital was at the edge of losing accreditation due to major deficiencies. With the great support from DBHDD leadership, I was able to lead our team to correct all deficiencies to receive full accreditation. Mark Pelletier, the Chief Operating Officer of The Joint Commission, highly praised us for our quick turnaround and becoming an outstanding organization.

If you had an opportunity to pass along a “word of advice” to another Regional Hospital Administrator what would you tell her/him? 

Our future is in community. We must work closely with our colleagues in community mental health to improve the discharge/transition process. We need to take down all the walls and build a more integrated system.