Volunteer stint as an ambulance driver in college was impetus for Dr. Rustin Morse pursuing a career in medicine.

After a nationwide search for a new chief medical officer, Nationwide Children’s Hospital selected Dr. Rustin Morse to lead its Downtown pediatric medical facility. Morse took over the position in July. Columbus CEO conducted a digital interview with him about a variety of topics. Here’s what he had to say. 

What’s the toughest job interview question you’ve ever had, and did you nail it? Please elaborate.

I’m not sure that I nailed the question, but one that comes to mind is “What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?” I shared, that for me, when I’m hiring someone, they are either qualified or not qualified. The final decision comes down to mutual fit. Am I the right fit for the organization and the position and is the opportunity the right fit for me? I believe strongly in hiring for fit. When interviewing, I try to be my authentic self and be honest about both my strengths and improvement opportunities. 

What’s one thing people at work would be surprised to know about you?

I was a late bloomer who, while growing up, never aspired to become a physician. I was not a good student as a child. I wasn’t motived and wasn’t focused and didn’t start applying myself academically until my junior year in high school. Consequently, I didn’t end up at what some may consider a typical top-notch pre-med university and had a lot of catching up to do in college. It is a long story, but my interest in medicine was kindled while volunteering as a driver for our college ambulance. One thing led to another, and here I am today.

If you weren’t the chief medical officer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, what would else would you like to do?

I’ve always joked that I’d like to play centerfield for the New York Yankees. While I’ve never tried out, I’m very confident I couldn’t ever have made the team. Early in my career, prior to developing an interest in quality improvement and patient safety, I desired to one day be the physician leader in a pediatric emergency department. If I were not in the medical field, there are many different career paths that I might have considered (e.g., computer programmer, pilot, entrepreneur).

Describe a point in your career where you felt stifled, bored, angry or frustrated, and what did you do about it?

Having some of these feelings occasionally is normal and natural. My first reaction is to sit with them and let them run their course. Most of the time they are fleeting in nature. I’ve been fortunate to always report to someone who cared about my career and personal happiness and was willing to work with me to address situations that may have contributed to these types of feelings. For example, if I was feeling bored, my boss would look for opportunities for me to grow. If I was angry or frustrated, I felt both comfortable and safe expressing those feelings.

Who or what inspires you in life, and why?

The children we care for in our hospital inspire me. Children shouldn’t have to know anything about cancer or heart surgery. They shouldn’t have to learn about insulin or inflammatory bowel disease. They shouldn’t have to worry about being safe and well fed. I’ve learned a lot from some very young children who have faced tremendous adversity with incredible grace. Our patients and families inspire me every day.

What was your first job, and how old were you?

I was probably around 12 years old when I started delivering newspapers door to door using my bicycle and a milkcrate tied to the handlebars. I did that seven days a week for many years, regardless of the weather. Maybe I could have a been a mail carrier.