Donald S. MacNaughton earned his bachelor’s degree in 1939 and his law degree in 1948, both from Syracuse University. During WWII, MacNaughton served as a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the South Pacific. After working with Prudential Insurance Company of America in various management capacities for 23 years—including nine years as chairman and CEO—MacNaughton became CEO and chairman of HCA Healthcare, and later joined the chairman executive committee at HealthTrust. It is best to view MacNaughton’s contributions to the health care industry through the companies he led and the people he developed as leaders in the process. MacNaughton is credited with helping build the reputations of both HCA Healthcare and HealthTrust within the health care industry and the national business community, which helped open doors for company growth and improvements in the delivery of health care on a national scale.
While MacNaughton was CEO and Chairman of HCA Healthcare, the company grew from a regional phenomenon to a national company. It grew from a collection of traditional inpatient hospitals to encompass outpatient services, surgery, diagnostics and home care, while navigating the expansions of HMOs and PPOs and the rapid growth in physician companies. Throughout it all, MacNaughton brought a disciplined approach to best practices in health care and business.
He humbly accepted the invitation to join the HealthTrust spinoff in 1987. HealthTrust’s group of 104 hospitals were generally smaller and more rural. With a good team behind him, MacNaughton made HealthTrust a financial success and thereby improved the health care in communities across the country. MacNaughton opened many doors for investors to buy the HTI bonds and added credibility to the emerging company.
His ethical conduct inspired many others; for example, while serving on the J&J Board during the Tylenol crisis of 1982, he supported the removal of all Tylenol products from store shelves, demonstrating that doing the right thing is worth the cost. He was also a direct mentor for many industry leaders. MacNaughton challenged colleagues to better understand why they did things the way they did and understand the larger context for their decisions. He put others first; his leadership consistently created a culture of honesty, camaraderie and respect.