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12 People You Need to Know in 2012: Steve Edwards

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In late 2011, Steve Edwards fulfilled a career goal he set for himself in 1990 to be the CEO of CoxHealth by the time he was 45. Weeks before his 46th birthday, he got the gig, chosen to succeed Bob Bezanson, who retired.

Edwards is the fifth CEO at CoxHealth since 1965, taking on a role once filled by his father Charlie, who died in 2001.

“I followed my dad in the hospital when I was 5 years old, tagging along with him,” Edwards recalls.

Edwards says his family’s influence drew him to the field, as several other relatives also worked in health care – and family conversations about the work were common.

“It was hard work and I knew it, and yet, they loved it,” Edwards says.

During high school, Edwards worked at CoxHealth on the ground crew and as an emergency room attendant, which showed him that hands-on care wasn’t his niche.

During studies at Drury University, Edwards discovered he liked working within organizational structures, which set him on a path to health care administration.

With an eye on working in leadership at CoxHealth someday, Edwards left Springfield to expand his education and experience, picking up a Master of Health Administration from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and completing an administrative fellowship at Baylor University in Dallas.

After stints at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and at Baylor University Medical Center, Edwards joined CoxHealth as an assistant administrator in 1992.

He’s worked his way up the ranks, and in 2007, he became executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Edwards says being in his hometown kicks his focus on quality care up a notch.

“On any given day, I probably know 15 patients in our hospital,” he says.  

Now, Edwards is working to implement a strategic plan that’s built around standardization, integration and access to services.

He says CoxHealth’s biggest immediate challenge is federal and state budget deficits, which affect Medicare and Medicaid – CoxHealth’s biggest payers.

“The politicians don’t want to take benefits away from people – they won’t be re-elected – so instead, I believe they’ll attempt to reduce reimbursement on providers,” he says, noting that the end result could be that fewer providers work with Medicare and Medicaid patients.
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