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Photo provided by COXHEALTH
Photo provided by COXHEALTH

Five Questions: Steve Edwards

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On Jan. 1, Steve Edwards will step in as CoxHealth president and CEO, succeeding Robert Bezanson. Edwards, who joined Cox in 1992 as an assistant administrator, has served as executive vice president and chief operating officer since 2007. A Springfield native, Edwards said he decided in college to work toward a career in hospital administration at Cox, a four-hospital system, with 850 beds, 63 clinics and annual net revenues of $1.4 billion.

Healthy History
“The first job I had here was on the grounds crew, essentially pulling weeds and picking up trash – which was certainly motivation for getting a college degree. Then I worked on the (emergency room staff) as an orderly during the latter part of high school. I went on to college and graduate school and worked at Baylor in Dallas. … I was doing the math the other day, and with my family … if we added all the years of service to CoxHealth, it was more than 130 years in my immediate family – sisters, brother-in-law, mom and dad and myself. It’s a real honor to serve in those footsteps.”

Mr. Fix-It
“They often say, ‘What makes you strong makes you weak.’ The things that probably make me strong in the business world are probably the things that make my wife’s eyes roll. I try as best I can to be patient, but deep inside me there is a sense of urgency in everything I do. And in health care, I think that’s right, because if we have a process that’s broken, there are literally thousands of patients who could be through that process that’s not working well in the time that it takes us to fix it.”

Becoming Boss
“I’m in a 90-day period where I’m (trying) to shadow frontline employees. You know, follow the housekeeper around, trying to clean rooms. I’ll try to serve food, follow nurses and doctors around. Input forums for employees are being set up. I’ll be meeting with key physicians’ groups, key leadership groups and learning what they think we ought to look like now and in the future. And then, you kind of need to have your hands on the wheel awhile before you realize what you need to do, so I’ll spend some time doing that.”

External Affairs
“When you are from a town like this, you’re on the job all the time – and that’s not a bad thing. You are just sort of always representing the organization. Internally, we have a great team, and I can feel very confident that the team can move things forward while I spend a little more time with the community. I have the benefit of not being new in the community. … I see my role as being at least 30 percent external, if not more.”

An Ounce of Prevention
“It’s the juxtaposition of an incredible surge in demand coming for services with the aging of baby boomers and population growth in our area, and the contrast of having less funding to care for more. Clearly, we cannot merely tweak what we are doing now.

“We’ve got to reorganize health care in our community, and in our nation. I’ve often said that we have great medical care and great physicians in southwest Missouri, but we have a very sick community. We are in the bottom 10 states in cardiovascular deaths, childhood poverty, stroke and obesity. … We must evolve the way we deliver health care to be focused on prevention.”

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