HHC Profile

New CFO Dreams Big

Hilary Waldman

Q: What do Hartford, Minneapolis and Cleveland have in common?

A: It’s really, really hard to find a direct international flight to any of these metro area airports.

And, that’s why Chibueze Okey Agba, Hartford HealthCare’s new executive vice president and chief financial officer, thinks the future is so bright for our growing healthcare system.

Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis — each is a top-shelf name in global healthcare, located in a mid-size U.S. city. What’s to stop Hartford HealthCare from competing in their arena?

“Hartford is an hour and half from Boston or New York City [by car]. That location gives Hartford an advantage that Cleveland and Mayo can’t compete with,’’ Agba said. “I think we have the opportunity to think bigger.”

Born in Nigeria, Agba came to the United States to attend college. He majored in business when his father, a state police official, objected to his original plan to study law. His father thought he should be a doctor.

Now 58, Agba went on to a distinguished career in healthcare finance that has included top executive positions with the Cleveland Clinic, Tufts Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Before his father passed away, he told his son he was proud of his accomplishments in healthcare finance, saying Agba was “as close as he could ever be” to a career in medicine. Soft-spoken with the lilt of his Igbo accent, which he has worked hard to maintain, Agba said he was drawn to Hartford HealthCare by our culture and commitment to equity.

“I felt like this is a place where I could make an impact, bring care closer to people and reduce health disparities across the region,’’ he said.

While aspiring to become a healthcare hub similar to Cleveland or Mayo, Agba also said it’s time to advocate for changes to healthcare financing systems so providers are paid to keep people healthy, in addition to treating them when they are sick. He wants to ensure everyone who needs it gets world-class care.

Married with four sons, Agba said he looks forward to settling in Connecticut and putting his stamp on Hartford HealthCare.