Inside CDCR recently caught up with Rhonda Litt, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for San Quentin State Prison.
What drew you to a role with CCHCS?
CCHCS is a best kept secret for Health Care Executives and professionals looking to diversify their work experience. I was recruited to this industry by one of my fellow CCHCS colleagues, Clarence Cryer. We call him the official/unofficial recruiter for CCHCS because he has enlisted a considerable number of CEOs and clinicians in this system.
Prior to working in the prison health care delivery system, I was firmly planted in work with community-based primary care entities called Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
I also worked a period in the Louisiana Department of Social Services through government appointments. So my professional life’s work has been in service and it has always been rewarding.
I have always been a firm believer that whatever work you do, you must give it your best and be impactful. I am a servant leader at heart and have always worked in industries that led to impactful work that strives to improve the lives of others.
The work we do at CCHCS/CDCR requires you have a heart for people and to be mission driven. So, what better way to give back than serve at an institution. I’ve gained wonderful connections with the custody and health care staff at all of the institutions I’ve been placed to lead including California Correctional Institution (CCI), California City Correctional Facility (CAC), and now San Quentin State Prison (SQ).
Who have you looked up to in your professional aspirations?
Honestly, I’ve had many wonderful mentors and inspiring professionals that have blessed me along my professional journey. However, the people who inspire me the most are my mom, Tim Wilcox, and my daughter Tyler Litt.
My mom’s strong business acumen, solid work ethic, and spiritual grounding attributes to the woman I am today and to the success I’ve had in life. Her legacy of Head Start preschool developments in underserved areas throughout Louisiana and the United States has touched so many lives. I am so proud of my mom. She was one of the founders of the first Head Start in my hometown of Baton Rouge and a sought-after consultant for many early childhood development initiatives.
I am convinced that much of my favor in life is from the positive seeds sown by my mom.
Now, it’s amazing to see my daughter in action because she reminds me of myself but she is a thousand times better. My daughter’s energy, intellect, and tenacity encourages me to be the best I can be. Her spirit of service and volunteerism on the local and national level amazes me and gives me hope. I am eternally grateful that I have them in my life.
What advice would you give to those seeking to challenge themselves professionally and/or seek leadership roles?
I believe you are only limited by your imagination. My southern parents believed in education and required all residents of their home to either go to college, the military, or work. This mandate included pets so we had none.
I encourage staff and others to stretch themselves and don’t stop learning. We are blessed to be a part of a department that invests heavily in the education and professional development of its people with a variety of certifications and training offerings. Many of the offerings are for transferable skills that can be used for promotional opportunities inside and outside of the system, which is not the norm for most governmental or private settings.
Volunteer for opportunities that are beyond your normal scope of work. Stretch yourself. There are many leaders within CCHCS and CDCR who would love to mentor and provide guidance if you are willing to listen and step out of your comfort zone. Succession planning is hard to do when no one is willing to step up or “stretch.”
While money is important to have a quality life, you should never allow it to be the primary driver of your professional choices in any season of your life. When your motives are pure, and you give it your all, the means will follow. There is a proverb that says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” That should be the motto of the work we do in health care because we have so much work to do with our patient population but lack the manpower often to execute it.
Fun Facts about Rhonda Litt, San Quentin CEO:
- I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster kids.
- I love to sing and can actually carry a tune. It makes up for my dancing inabilities.
- My daughter is 33 years old.
- Big fan of Michael Buble’.
- When I moved to California over eight years ago, I purchased my first lottery ticket. Obviously, I didn’t win.
- I also have a certification in Paralegal Studies (It’s a long story).
- I am shy and an introvert but promise I am not antisocial.
- My Gallup Survey Strengths: connectedness, developer, positivity, relater, restorative.