For those who may not have followed, Merit owns 12 hospitals in Mississippi, and is in the midst of a major re-brand. Steve is responsible for 6 hospitals and 35 clinics in the central Mississippi region, including Merit Health Madison (Canton), Woman’s Hospital (Flowood), River Oaks (Flowood), Central (Jackson), Rankin (Brandon), and River Region (Vicksburg). With 3,300 employees, this obviously makes Merit one of Mississippi’s largest employers.
Born in Prague, Okla., Steve grew up in a “medical family”, his father serving as a hospital administrator. You might say it was natural that Steve would follow along a career in health care, and after receiving his undergraduate degree at Texas Tech and a master’s in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis, he gained experience in a variety of roles, serving with Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Texas, and with hospitals and health care organizations in Texas, Kansas, Florida, and Oklahoma.
“I must love working in health care, because I’m entering my 39th year in the profession” he told me. “My passion is helping people to live healthier and better lives, and I’m really focused on making our facilities more effective and efficient in delivering quality care.”
During his management career, he has served extensively in strengthening hospitals through the expansion of services, improved quality of care, physician recruitment, and the use of effective analytics to improve efficiency and care.
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Formerly, each of the hospitals under Steve’s direction were run more or less independently. With Merit, the focus is on creating a unified and cohesive system that will improve efficiency, allow for cost savings and better purchasing power, all while bringing resources together to improve the quality of care. That’s the essence of the re-brand that Merit is working to achieve in Mississippi.
Being new to Mississippi, and having not lived and worked previously in the Deep South, Steve said that he has been “very impressed” in the brief time he’s been here.
“I really love how warm and friendly people are here,” he said. “it’s been a delight to get to know some great folks, from the governor on down, and I’m impressed with how hard people are working in Mississippi to make it a better place to live, work, and raise their families.”
Steve has always enjoyed community involvement, and he sees great opportunities to become a part of the Mississippi health care and business communities.
Although he sees challenges on both the hospital and clinic sides, especially with the very high levels of indigent care that must be accommodated in his hospitals, he is nonetheless optimistic that more efficient management of resources and the system integration will enable his facilities to continue to deliver quality care.
Asked what other challenges he sees, he said that one of his main concerns is that there won’t be “enough physicians down the road to meet the full needs of the aging baby boom generation”.
“Many of the physicians in practice today are in their 50s,” he said. “When I look ahead, there’s a concern that when many of these doctors leave the profession, there won’t be enough replacements.”
So what’s the solution? He points out that “tremendous progress” has been made in recent years with the delivery of services through physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners, and these positions are going to “grow enormously”.
“The training and quality of these folks has steadily improved,” he said. “And with the quality control measures and advanced technology in place, people can now feel very confident in seeing a PA or NP”.
During our conversation with Steve, it was clear that he holds strong views on health care, its future, and its interaction with the communities it serves. We’ll be publishing ‘Part 2’ of those discussions in the next issue of the MBJ, as well as online, as a part of our ongoing series on health care.
For those who are interested in learning more about Merit Health, visit MyMeritHealth.com.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.