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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

Some people believe you have to have a high IQ to be successful. Others believe a good education guarantees success. While Steve Edwards believes both those factors are important, he attributes his success to choosing a career path early in life and never wavering from it.

Edwards, 33, recently was promoted to senior vice president of regional services for Cox Health Systems. As Cox's newest senior vice president, he is working to ensure smooth operations of more than 56 clinics that employ 129 area physicians.

Early on, Edwards knew he wanted a career in health care. As a child, he recalled holding onto his father's pant leg as they walked down the hallways at Cox. His father once served as the chief executive officer of Cox Hospitals, and his mother and both of his sisters work in the health care field.

Edwards benefited from having a clear direction, and even as a student he sought out jobs that would further his career.

While attending Drury College, he worked in the local office of Sen. John Danforth, which gave him the opportunity to see how the federal government addresses national health care issues. Later, he served as a legal assistant for an attorney who handled medical malpractice lawsuits. He also worked as a bookkeeper at a local bank.

Following graduation, he attended the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and received a master's degree in health administration. During this time, he also worked the graveyard shift at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, where he was responsible for a variety of administrative duties.

"I learned so much on that job," Edwards said. "All of the off-the-wall, interesting stuff happens at night, and I learned how to deal with all kinds of situations."

In 1990, Edwards graduated from Washington University and moved to Dallas, Texas, after he received the Boone Powell Jr. Administrative Fellowship from Baylor University Medical Center. There he met and became friends with Boone Powell Jr.

The two quickly found common ground. Both Edwards and Powell were the sons of top hospital administrators. Boone Powell Sr. had been the CEO of Baylor University Medical Center.

"People really admired and respected Boone Powell Sr.," Edwards said. "We became friends, and sometimes we would go fishing. Wherever he went, people treated him like a king. Occasionally, someone would show me a picture of a family member or friend who got the medical care they needed because of Boone Powell Sr. He really reinforced the idea that health care administration is all about helping people."

Meanwhile, Boone Powell Jr. encouraged Edwards to develop his own style and helped him realize that he could step out of his father's shadow. After serving for two years as the assistant to the chief operating officer at Baylor University Medical Center, Edwards decided to return to Springfield and Cox.

In 1992, he became the assistant administrator for Cox Medical Centers. Edwards oversaw the hospitals' laboratories, medical record systems, food and nutritional services, cardiovascular services, social services, environmental services and maintained smooth operations at Cox Plaza Hotel.

In 1994, he became the vice president of clinical services. In December 1998, he was promoted to his current position as senior vice president of regional services.

Edwards said Cox has grown significantly since he came onboard in 1992. The number of employees has increased from 3,800 to more than 8,000, and today, Cox Health Systems is a $460 million enterprise with 1,000 beds and more than 50 physicians' clinics.

Cox Medical Centers also have been ranked in the top 100 hospitals for the past two years, and Cox is also rated as a top 100 integrated health care system, Edwards said.

Although health care is one of the more heavily regulated industries in the United States, Edwards believes government intervention won't serve as the primary catalyst for future change. According to Edwards, the baby boomers will spawn the next big wave of restructuring.

"Right now, 5 percent of our population most of whom are 65 or older consume 90 percent of our nation's health care resources," Edwards said. "As the baby boomers grow older, the need for health care resources will increase."

STEVE EDWARDS:

Senior vice president of regional services for Cox Health Systems. A Springfield native, he has a master's degree in health administration.

"Health care administration is all about helping people."

PHOTO CAPTION:

Steve Edwards, Cox Health Systems' newest senior vice president, chose a career in health care early in life and has never wavered from his course. [[In-content Ad]]

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