Lessons from a Health System CEO
Longtime CoxHealth executive and former CEO Steve Edwards shares lessons from a 30 year career in hospital management. With host Ben Hilmes, Steve discusses his leadership philosophy, the challenges of managing through COVID-19, and his passion for wellness and metabolic health.
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For Steve Edwards, healthcare is the family business. His father, Charlie, was CEO of Springfield, MO-based CoxHealth, a role that Steve assumed years later. During his tenure, Steve guided the not-for-profit health system through a period of rapid expansion and growth. In this week’s episode, host Ben Hilmes talks to Steve about his greatest leadership challenges, including the COVID-19 crisis, and the two discuss solutions for the growing healthcare workforce shortage and other industry issues.
- For some leaders, like Steve, healthcare is a calling. Growing up in a family of healthcare executives and providers shaped his life path and compelled him to lead and make a difference.
- During COVID-19 Steve and his leadership team rose to the occasion utilizing rapid decision making and clear communication.
- Unhealthy lifestyles drive U. S. healthcare costs higher and strain our healthcare system. Our industry and our leaders must invest in prevention and wellness as one way to stem the tide.
Steve Edwards is recently retired from a 30+ year career at CoxHealth, where he held a multitude of leadership roles, culminating in his decade-long tenure as President and CEO of the multi-billion-dollar Missouri-based health system. Steve shepherded the health system through a period of significant growth and transformation, including the acquisition and integration of multiple regional hospitals, construction of a new Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Neuroscience Center, achievement of Level I Trauma, Stroke and STEMI Centers and Magnet Status, and affiliation with the University of Missouri School of Medicine. Steve also improved the financial health of the organization, more than doubling its total assets and fund balance, while increasing liquidity (days cash on hand) by 35%. Steve is currently a Healthcare IT Leaders elite advisor, and the Chief Strategy Officer for Journeys Metabolic, an enterprise intervention platform that helps value-based organizations improve clinical and financial outcomes for metabolic disease.
Steve Edwards [00:00:00]:
So you look at how can we become more efficient, more productive? And most ways that we become more productive are incremental. Maybe we have one less scrub tech in the OR for a heart case, or we ask people to work a little harder. But then if you think of these giant disruptive changes, think of Henry Ford, who made the assembly line, who made leaps, logarithmic, thousand percent improvement in productivity. I think those are the kind of things we need to look for.
From healthcare IT leaders, you’re listening to leader to leader with Ben Hilmes. On today’s episode, our guest is Steve Edwards, the former CEO of Cox Health, a Missouri based not-for-profit health system with six hospitals and nearly 12,000 employees. Steve’s 30 plus year career gives him a unique perspective on current challenges and growth opportunities in healthcare.
Ben Hilmes [00:00:53]:
Steve, thanks for joining me today on Leader to leader. It’s exciting to see you and looking forward to the dialogue. 30 plus years in one organization, namely Cox Health in Springfield, Missouri, your hometown, actually, just north of my hometown of Nix, Missouri. So this is kind of exciting to talk about, you and the Springfield area, Cox Health, et cetera. So looking forward to the next hour or so. So you left Cox in 22, but some said you retired, but I don’t think you actually retired. I know you’re staying really busy doing some consulting work. I know you’re spending some time with us doing some advisory work, and then some things we’ll talk about here in a little bit around your passion for this whole metabolic health.
Ben Hilmes [00:01:46]:
And you’re working with a startup there, which is some really exciting work that I want you to be able to share with our listeners. But before we get to all that, I’d like for you to kind of go back and talk about your past. I mean, Cox Health has been in your family for a really long time. Your father worked there, then you started there, worked 30 plus years there. I kind of look at Cox Health as been a family business for you. So I’d love for you to kind of take the viewers and listeners back a little bit and explain your past.
Steve Edwards [00:02:22]:
Yeah, Ben, thank you. Thanks for having me on your podcast, your show. This is great. My mom still has a tradition, she’s 93 years old that we gather every Friday night, my immediate family. And a few years back, I did the math, and we had 160 years of service to Cox Health with my father, my sisters, my brother in law. So long term commitment. My dad started there in 1965, actually, the year I was born. I kind of wandered the halls, hanging on to his pant leg, learning a lot about health care, and it became more than just a job.
Steve Edwards [00:03:02]:
It’s your hometown. It’s family. Very passionate about working for that organization, working for a town that I love.
Ben Hilmes [00:03:10]:
Steve, that’s incredible. 160 plus years of service to CoxHealth, the Springfield area, through your family. All I can say is wow and thank you. It’s quite the commitment you and your family have made, and it’s pretty awesome to, to, I’m sure to have experienced that. So your last ten years at Cox Health, you were the CEO. And I think this is relevant a lot today because during that time, it was M and A activity you had to drive to survive kind of thing. Figure out how do you maneuver quickly, effectively, efficiently. And you guys went on a pretty big growth streak there.
Ben Hilmes [00:03:55]:
Where you were acquiring, you were building. I kind of think we’re past COVID here in the sense some of that’s returning. I’m seeing personally, we’re seeing a lot of activity with our business and helping organizations who acquire other systems, help them standardize on technology platforms. Et know. So for those CEOs and CFOs that are going through some of that mean, as Max was coming in, what are you telling him about how you can help him navigate some of the challenges they’re going to face in this new.
Steve Edwards [00:04:36]:
You know, we did have a lot of growth. Part of it was this realization that the cost structure and the reimbursement weren’t, we weren’t able to reconcile that. The Medicare reimbursement rate in southwest Missouri, the Medicaid rate is particularly low. And if you remember about ten years ago, maybe 15 years ago, people were talking about getting your cost structure down to Medicare rate. And we did the math and we didn’t think we could do it without compromising quality, laying off staff, et cetera. So we began to think, okay, if we can’t do that, how can we better do that? Well managed care companies were taking advantage of us. So we began this strategy of broadening our network to become essential to payers. And then we began to realize, if we took on the risk, we can manage this population.
Steve Edwards [00:05:26]:
So we began to think of our market more as a blanket that we want to cover. That way, if we had the full insurance dollar, we can manage these cost prevention does that, et cetera. So we integrated our network, we brought in completely integrated medical staff, we brought in insurance companies, merged several hospitals, and kind of completed a complete footprint or a giant octopus that I now left Max to try to manage, multileg octopus. So that’s the new CEO of Cox. He’s a wonderful guy. He has more of an engineering mind, and I think when you get to this level, when I started at Cox, we were 3200 employees. And when I retired, we’re 12,500, maybe 250,000,000 in revenue to 2 billion. And I think what it takes to grow that monster is a different skill set than what it is to manage it.
Steve Edwards [00:06:22]:
And so my advice is, we’ve got to make reliability in healthcare. We’ve got to invest in platforms. One of my driving philosophies is that we want one clinic, because we had about 80 clinics that kind of acted separately. We wanted one chart so that we could integrate the knowledge and information together. We wanted one signature so that we had the authority and a contract to represent everyone, which gave us maybe more essential to manage care companies and then one healthcare system. So bringing all that together was maybe my challenge. Now, managing this monster is the new CEO’s challenge. So my advice is hire really smart people, smarter than me, that have more of an engineering mind to kind of bring us together.
Ben Hilmes [00:07:07]:
That’s awesome. Well, Steve, the bets paid off because you guys did extremely well. You saw incredible financial performance over your ten year. But I’m sitting here thinking about you’re probably, what, seven years into your tenure, and you’re probably thinking about the next chapter, and what’s that going to look like for me? And then kind of, wham. Right, COVID.
Steve Edwards [00:07:30]:
Ben Hilmes [00:07:31]:
And it kind of thrust you. I remember having interactions with you somewhat during those times and just explaining to me and some of my colleagues what it thrust you into as the CEO, as kind of the face of community health there in Springfield. Walk us through that, because it’s just a fascinating time in our think. You know, people in your position can learn from a lot of what you went through, mistakes you made, things you did well. Just would love for you to share some of that.
Steve Edwards [00:08:08]:
Yeah, it’s hard to encapsulate that time. I would start by saying my philosophy in leadership was to not be very public. As a matter of fact, I think when you’re public, become very outspoken, you take the light away from your team. And so if there’s a good thing, I’d rather the CEO not speak about it, but have that leader who’s involved speak of it. And I made the one caveat. But, yes, of course, in a crisis, a CEO has to be the one that steps up thinking that I’d never be in a crisis like that or of that magnitude. And if I did, it may last a day or so, and it didn’t. And we began to realize that our market was different.
Steve Edwards [00:08:51]:
We’re 3 hours away from a larger system. We had to take care of our own. We have a good competition in town. Their leadership was really based out of about 3 hours away. And so kind of local connections were maybe more powerful for us. And we began with the philosophy when we saw this thing hit Madrid, if you knew that there was going to be a natural disaster coming, and maybe you had just weeks or a few weeks to prepare, how hard would you work knowing that maybe your work effort could save liVes? So I remember people in the community were wondering why we were working so hard, because the virus had never even been in Missouri. We knew it was coming. We knew we had time to prepare and we could make a difference.
Steve Edwards [00:09:37]:
And so that’s when our team really came together. I liken it to maybe that readiness feeling when soldiers were about to land on Normandy Beach. This energy, this kind of deep conviction that we’re going to make a difference. And we listened, and our philosophy was that this is an open book test, and the answers are all around us. We had an infectious disease doctor, was a friend from Kirkland, Washington. That’s where the first nursing home outbreak was. He was kind enough to give us updates, like at midnight. Often we’d reach out to him.
Steve Edwards [00:10:16]:
There was a nurse director from an ICU in Madrid, and one of our surgeons cousin, and we were in constant contact with her early on. Tell us what we don’t know. We can watch the news, but it doesn’t tell us the things are going to happen that could happen wrong. And that’s when I remember one video exchange with her where she had goggles hanging outside the ICU that were from Walmart, because they didn’t have PPE, and the world didn’t appreciate we might not have enough PPE. I remember her telling us that they ran out of oxygen. They had to shut the street down and bring in giant purple tanks, because no hospital had ever anticipated having oxygen demands that high. Think of a normal patient, maybe three liters, and COVID patients, 60 liters, and then have 300 of those. And then I think what was chilling the most to me is when she told me they shut down the Madrid Municipal skating arena so that they could use it for a morgue.
Steve Edwards [00:11:17]:
That gave us time. Our community gave us time, our city. We’re a pretty conservative part of the state. And our city leaders, we asked them, buy us a few weeks so we can build. And so our team was pretty amazing. We had the idea that we needed more ICU beds. I’m kind of unsophisticated. I saw Vanderbilt had built ICU beds in a parking garage, and I just said, I want one of those.
Steve Edwards [00:11:45]:
And our VP facilities, a man named Rod Schaeffer, who is a miracle worker, he said, how quick do you want it? And I said, two weeks, almost being facetious. And we had a shell space, and we got that space finished, out, designed, approved by city and state. Beds, technology, medicines. It was ready to go in two weeks, which gave our team and our community a great sense of confidence because we could handle it. So it was stories like that. It was when our HR department said, hey, school is a problem. 83% of our employees are women, and they tend to have more, maybe more responsibility in childcaring, and we’re going to lose our staff. So our team, we had a daycare.
Steve Edwards [00:12:34]:
Our team said, let’s create a school. So we created a school for 300 students in our fitness center that allowed our parents to still work and et cetera. So great work with the state. We were worried about the vaccination clinics, because at that time, there was a limited amount of vaccine, and they were prioritizing who should get it. We knew that we had an electronic record that we could take that data and segment it down to the highest risk, to the lowest risk and prioritize it and then upload it quickly. So we ran massive vaccination clinics, like many systems did. So lots of really amazing team dynamics. And then, of course, it turned dark when I think, misunderstanding, misinformation, confusion, fear came in.
Steve Edwards [00:13:23]:
And then we saw our team no longer be lionized, but nurses working 20 hours at a time, going to the grocery store with a mask on and being told they shouldn’t wear a mask, and being spit on and death threats, stuff that’s aggravating. But we’re in health care, and the thing that we appreciate is we take care of mental health, and the base level of psychosis in almost every community is 1%. And so we knew that was what we had to deal with.
Ben Hilmes [00:13:53]:
Wow. Steve. It’s hard to listen to that sometimes, just to think of the challenges you guys went through. But I know with thoughtful, swift, deliberate action. I know it’s challenging, but you guys saved lives, and I think that probably gives you some level of comfort, knowing that you saved lives. You did the very best you could possibly do to ensure that you were keeping your community safe, and you became the face of that, and that was a huge burden for you. So, from me to you. Thank you for doing that.
Ben Hilmes [00:14:31]:
And I know you quickly point to your team and just all the heroic efforts, but job well done. Job well done.
Steve Edwards [00:14:39]:
Thanks, Dan. Yeah, I can barely take a blood pressure, so I don’t get much credit for that. But a great.
Ben Hilmes [00:14:47]:
I mean, so coming out of know there’s going to be some long term effects. I think one of the ones we’re seeing just every day that we’re facing is the growing workforce, shortages and challenges. It’s to the point where I know when I was at Adventist health during this time, and a little post is just the challenge of the cost. So you talked about it earlier, the compression of the big squeeze is on, and one piece of that is the overall cost. Workforce being the biggest cost you have, and now you’ve got demands, growing volumes, rising workforce shortages. Where does it give? And is there a bigger thought that needs to be talked about, whether it’s at a regional or national level? Would love your perspective on that challenge that we’re all facing.
Steve Edwards [00:15:45]:
Yeah, I think if you fit the calculus together that we have probably a decreasing workforce and increasing demand, that convergence doesn’t look good. And so you look at how can we become more efficient, more productive, and most ways that we become more productive are incremental. Maybe we have one less scrub tech in the OR for a heart case, or we ask people to work a little harder. But then if you think of these giant disruptive changes, think of Henry Ford, who made the assembly line, who made leaps, logarithmic, thousand percent improvement in productivity. I think those are the kind of things we need to look for. So virtual health is something that I think we all woke up to. We looked at our demand curve. We made free virtual health visits to decrease demand on the ER during COVID We made that decision on a Friday and opened it up on a Monday.
Steve Edwards [00:16:45]:
And of course, our demand went up probably tenfold. And so looking at things like virtual health and the bigger piece I think we’ll go into, if you take on risk, you can’t be much more efficient taking care of a heart attack than not having one. And so the approach we can take to reduce metabolic health, CrIs, the things we can do to reduce risk in a fee for service environment that doesn’t really reward hospitals, but in an environment where there’s value base and an environment we’re taking on risk, that rewards hospitals. So I think those systems that can prepare to take on risk control the whole dollar. When we talk about the medical loss ratio, we were always offended by that in healthcare. Medical loss ratio is a percentage of premium that went to medical care. And we think that premium should be very close to 100. And so the insurance companies think that’s where profit and overhead comes.
Steve Edwards [00:17:39]:
And so you carve out 12% of provider care with those ratios. So I think that’s where you make these giant leaps. Is finding new ways to reduce risk. A thing I like to preach is our GDP is 18.2% of its health care. And in Europe, United Kingdom, for example, it’s 11%. And is it? Our hospitals are that expensive? I will contend it’s because our patients are that sick, meaning our metabolic crisis. 89% of our patients have a metabolic disorder syndrome. I believe the difference in our GDP and that of United Kingdom mirrors a difference in our metabolic disease syndrome rate versus United Kingdom’s or all of Europe.
Steve Edwards [00:18:28]:
So if we can focus on that, keeping our people healthier, that’s where you make these big productivity changes in reducing.
Ben Hilmes [00:18:38]:
Very, very insightful, Steve. And that kind of leads me. You’re kind of leading me right to where I want to go. So this is good. You and I, last time we spoke, you talked about a trip you took with your wife, and you guys were out of the country. And it was very vivid to me, the way you described as you were migrating back to the US, kind of concentric circles, if you would, from a travel standpoint, every concentric circle closer back to the US, you saw people who were heavier, less healthy. And then when you get back to the US, it’s kind of your point on, we’re just not as healthy, we’re not as well. We’re sicker, we’re heavier.
Ben Hilmes [00:19:20]:
We’ve got a number more comorbidities. ET. You know, you’ve now dedicated a lot of your retired working time to thinking about and talking about and working in around metabolic health. So I’d love for you to kind of tell that story, talk to us about what you’re doing in that space and kind of where you see that going.
Steve Edwards [00:19:48]:
Yeah, thanks, Ben. I think right after I retired, I began to have a little bit more time to kind of read and research, not the day to day crises. And it occurred to me that I’ve been in a pandemic, a plague, my entire career, a metabolic plague. And the numbers are pretty horrific. And you think of it, the only difference is it’s not as acute as urgently, but there’s more deaths. My most powerful statistic I can think of is in 1975, 2% of us had diabetes, and about 90 95% of that was type one, and today, 11% has diabetes and 90 95% is that type two. Not to mention hypertension, stroke, heart disease, all the things associated with it. So I started working for a company called Journeys Metabolic, and what they’re doing is super cool to me.
Steve Edwards [00:20:43]:
They’ve taken these physician created protocols, coaching, education, and then scaled it up with technology to make it accessible by healthcare systems, insurance companies, or maybe even individuals. So, simple way to describe it is they’ve got this proprietary technology called bioSense, which measures your ketones, your fat oxidation, and you can measure your blood sugars. Then they have an app that has the clinical protocols of physicians written. You get a daily drip of education. It’s got a scanning technology, scan it over your food, and it will download all the macronutrients, and it guides someone on a course to change behavior. Right now, the world’s kind of being taken over by Ozempic, and that worries me, because Ozempic doesn’t create behavioral change. And like all new drugs, we get this exuberance. We over prescribe it, we become aware of side effects, we probably under prescribe it, and that goes back to kind of maybe where it should be.
Steve Edwards [00:21:52]:
And with the ozembics of the world, when you look at body composition, the weight people are losing is 50% muscle, 50% fat. And we know that’s not healthy. We know that’s starvation. And so I love to be involved with a group that’s trying to change our culture, because what’s wrong with our country in terms of health has everything to do with our culture. Fast food, processed food, sugar, even though I noted flying back from Amsterdam, eventually, Springfield, Missouri. The rate of metabolic disease, it’s nothing to blame people on, because we’re in a food swamp. We have such bad quality food. And so to change that is something we’re excited about.
Ben Hilmes [00:22:43]:
Well, that’s exciting. I know it’s something that you’re passionate about. I know when I was at Adventist health, we were heavy into blue zones and just trying to figure out how do you go activate that same kind of mentality, which is you got to eat better, move better, think better, all those sleep better, et cetera. And it’s a really important thing. And I’m glad we have people like you that are waking up every day thinking about that, for sure. I’m going to pivot us every time in these podcasts. We spend a little bit of time talking about leadership, and you one have been around a lot of leaders pretty much your entire life, and then you’ve been a leader in most of your professional career, but how did you find your own leadership style? Right? Because I assume your father and your mother and your aunts, they were all leaders, but they had their own style. How did Steve find his.
Steve Edwards [00:23:44]:
Mean? This is. I think for every leader, there’s a different leadership to. I think a good leader becomes AuthenTic, true to who they are, which makes us all a little bit different. I had come in an amalgamism of leaders that influenced me, and I remember kind of running this calculus in different scenarios, like, what would Boone Powell do? Boone Powell was the CEO of Baylor when I was there. What would my dad do? What would other leaders that I admired, physicians I admired growing up, what would they do? And ultimately, I think you develop your own style. But for me, maybe the most important thing is to learn that as a leader, if you’re authentic and if you care, and it’s okay to show that you care, it’s okay to have emotion, especially when it’s related to compassion. That really connects well, where most of us try to put this veneer up, that we’re kind of invincible. And I will tell you, there are times, especially when we had a great loss, when we lost our first employee to COVID in our own ICU, a nurse.
Steve Edwards [00:24:58]:
It’s hard not to tear up over that. And I think if that’s an authentic response, that’s how we should be. And so I put all those leaders together and tried to try to be the best person I could be, and I failed many times and made lots of mistakes. Often supported and propped up by a really wonderful team. And I never had know I worked with leaders that maybe they lost their job, and it seemed like they were afraid to hire someone really competent because they may take their spot. And I was always in that position of like, I want to hire the smartest person possible. Right? The Jack Welch quote. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re really bad at hiring.
Steve Edwards [00:25:39]:
So I think that’s part of it, too. I also believe in speed. If you’re creating a baseball team, Ben, or a football team, we’re talking about football. You may decide to be big or strong or fast and create a philosophy around that. And our leadership team was built on speed. And it seems natural in healthcare, because everything we do, speed matters.
Ben Hilmes [00:26:06]:
Steve Edwards [00:26:06]:
Door to balloon time, door to aspirin time, how long it takes to get a screening mammogram back. All these things can affect life. And so in the pandemic, it really tested that. We saw the speed of our team wasn’t designed for pandemic, but boy, it really played out. I like to tell the story that we were making a decision on whether or not to start masking on a Monday. It was Friday afternoon. We sent this final email to a group of leaders. Everyone weighed in, and we implemented masking in about 85 locations over the weekend.
Steve Edwards [00:26:37]:
And then Monday, one of the leaders said, yeah, I think we should do it. And we’re like, what is he even talking about? We made this decision three days ago, and he was just catching up and like, okay, great guy. Probably not on our acute crisis team, probably in our long term planning team, more of a deliberative person. But I think all those things come together, build a management style that my good fortune in life was to have really amazing people around me. Maybe a little bit of luck in helping pick people, picking a good team around me.
Ben Hilmes [00:27:09]:
Well, I think it’s a bit of a science, but it’s a lot of art in picking the right people. And you seem to figure that out, Steve, so congrats to, you know, your teams and the teams you built and what they’ve accomplished. It’s extraordinary when a lot of people think about a CEO of a large health system dynamic growing. They think, what? This person’s got to be just an eccentric extrovert, all those things. But you’re a self described introvert, so I was thinking about that, and I’ve known you a little while, and I would say that that’s probably fairly accurate, but I think you’ve somehow been able to almost, in a judo term, use that as a strength. I’d like for you to talk about, because I think there’s a lot of introverts out there that could really be put into large, really important leadership roles, but they maybe don’t pursue those because of that introvertedness. And you’ve taken that and made it a strength. So I’d love for you to share about that.
Steve Edwards [00:28:21]:
Yeah, I test introverted, although I think it’s a skill set you can develop. Maybe the difference is an extrovert. When they’re around people, add energy, and people like me around people, it ultimately drains me a little bit. I grew up with a speech impediment and dyslexic, and the idea of public speaking was, as it is for many people, the scariest thing possible. And when I was very young, I got the opportunity. I worked for our Senator Danforth Ben, you probably remember that name, and great man, and Ronald Reagan came to town and I got to meet him and it got me fascinated with him. And I read Peggy Noonan’s book when character was king, and it described that Reagan was a shy person. And when his movie star career kind of was slow, he got this gig working for General Electric, and he hosted like a Sunday night technology show.
Steve Edwards [00:29:19]:
But part of the gig, he had to go visit GE plants, and he’d visit like three or four plants a week and speak to each shift. And that practice made him a good public speaker. And I think that sort of thing, those kind of people inspired me. So I realized that, okay, what I have to do is if anyone asks me to speak, I’m going to have to say, yes, Ben, that’s why I’m speaking to you right now. I’m still trying to hold on to that. Right.
Ben Hilmes [00:29:42]:
I’m happy we’re helping.
Steve Edwards [00:29:44]:
Yeah, yeah. I’m still learning. So I think all those things factor in, but I believe in certain causes, and I believe you can’t make change happen without having a voice, maybe a voice for others. And so to kind of refine and create that skill was important, and maybe over the years I got better at it.
Ben Hilmes [00:30:06]:
That’s awesome. I think there’s a lot of people are going to hear that and they’re going to be inspired by that. So I’m excited to see where that one goes. So, Steve, we’re going to land here with some lightning questions. Every podcast seems to do them, so I guess I’m taking that on. So when you’re not working, what’s the one thing you lean towards to relax?
Steve Edwards [00:30:36]:
I like being outdoors. As a matter of fact, if we changed our dress code to wear shorts outside, I’d probably still be working. I love fishing. I love kayaking and canoeing and hiking, and especially love fly fishing. But being out outside and have a good reason to be outside fly fishing, it’s always in beautiful areas, fish nowhere to be. And so if you just stand in a river admiring it, you look kind of silly. But if you have a fly rod in your hand, people think you have a purpose. And so I enjoy fly fishing in particular.
Ben Hilmes [00:31:11]:
Well, and you can’t live in the home of bass pro shops, right. And not have some affinity towards trying to hook the big one.
Steve Edwards [00:31:22]:
Ben Hilmes [00:31:23]:
Sounds like a great activity. So I see lots of books behind. You’ve mentioned a couple of books during the podcast here, a couple of books you’d recommend rent to upcoming leaders that have influenced.
Steve Edwards [00:31:37]:
Wow. So a lot. I mean, an early one was Stephen Covey, the seven habits one I met him in 1989 or 90, probably. I got to go with him to a trip from the airport. And so I looked at it as like, hey, this is a really expensive consultant. I get to pick him up from the airport when I was at my fellowship. And the idea to begin with, the end in mind was powerful for me. And actually, that was when I wrote kind of a life plan where I wanted to be when.
Steve Edwards [00:32:08]:
And by creating that plan, it helped me get there. So, yeah, I believe in that. Recent books, there’s an author, Peter Attia, who’s a Johns Hopkins oncological surgeon, who’s studied what it takes to live long and live healthy lives. And he’s brilliant. I finally read Ben, the Harry Truman Biography. I think it’s a thousand pages long. And when I retired, I was able to do that. And that’s an old one.
Steve Edwards [00:32:40]:
But being from Missouri like you and I are, and admiring one of our leaders like that, that’s a good book, too.
Ben Hilmes [00:32:48]:
That’s great. So obviously you have, and I have a passion for Springfield, Missouri. What’s your favorite city not named? Springfield, Missouri.
Steve Edwards [00:32:58]:
Yeah. Well, you know me, Ben. Let me first tell you why I love Springfield. It’s not because it was 82 degrees last week and 24 degrees yesterday. Right. I look at it this way right now, where I sit, I’m about 10 miles from nearly Everyone in this world I love. I have two nieces. One’s in residency in Wisconsin, another one’s faculty in Kentucky.
Steve Edwards [00:33:31]:
The rest are. Yeah, Springfield is really important to me. Now, would I like Springfield to be like in Kauai and have all my family? That’d be fantastic. And so I love Hawaii and I love Kauai, love the Big Island. And, yeah, I think if I had to name a city, it’d be one of the small cities in Kauai. If I could move my entire extended family, even people I barely know, I just like being around people I know. That’s nice in small town.
Ben Hilmes [00:34:03]:
I love that. Well, Steve, we’re going to wrap. So I think this has been really, if I, growing up in the area, there’s lots of really famous people that have made a big difference in Springfield and the community. And I think of Johnny Morris, Jr. He’s global, right? Founder of AsPrO, more local guy, John Q. Hammonds, and the influence he’s had in the city and just in the support he had for the university there, Missouri State University. When I grew up, close friends with the O’Reilly family, and I think about auto parts stores and not only their business, but then what they’ve done with that to support the community and all the different endeavors there. But the Edwards family should be on that list because you guys have 160 years of supporting the community and it’s just really neat.
Ben Hilmes [00:35:06]:
So thank you and I appreciate you spending time with me today, and this is fantastic.
Steve Edwards [00:35:14]:
It’s been wonderful. Ben, great to see you and thanks for the time and look forward to seeing you again.
Ben Hilmes [00:35:20]:
Likewise. That was a lot of fun catching up with Steve. He’s done so much in healthcare, and I know he’s going to continue to contribute to our industry for years to come. Here are my top takeaways from our conversation. One, for some leaders like Steve, healthcare is a calling. Growing up in a family of healthcare executives and providers has shaped his life path and compelled him to lead and make a huge difference. Two, the best leaders are authentic and true to themselves. It’s okay to show compassion and be emotional as a leader.
Ben Hilmes [00:35:57]:
And three, unhealthy lifestyles drive the US healthcare costs even higher and strain our healthcare system. Our industry and our leaders must invest in prevention and wellness as one way to stem the tide.
Thanks for joining us. For Leader to Leader. To learn more about how to fuel your own personal leadership journey through the healthcare industry, visit healthcare It Leaders.com. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any insights, and we’ll see you on the next episode.