John Yeary, CEO, Freestone Medical Center

Service Isn’t Seasonal: Give Back to the Community All Year Round

GUEST BLOG

By John Yeary, CEO, Freestone Medical Center

The holidays are a time for giving and gathering. However, for hospitals, community involvement and giving back should be year-round priorities. This is especially true for hospitals serving small, tight-knit communities.

The CEO should set the example. For my part, as chief executive of Freestone Medical Center in Fairfield, Texas, I started simply by joining the Rotary Club. I’ve since found that each connection I make tends to create others, developing synergies that benefit both the hospital and the community. The engagement our hospital has developed with the high school via the Rotary Club is a shining example.

When the school’s digital media broadcasting club began competing at statewide contests against bigger schools, the students needed experience presenting to an audience who could provide constructive feedback. The Rotarians, and I among them, were that audience. What I saw was impressive potential talent I wanted to tap as well as develop. The hospital gave the students an opportunity to produce community-oriented health content for use in our digital marketing campaigns.

The students recorded interviews with healthcare providers and covered our health fair as a news event, gaining practical experience in the process. The hospital received free creative content, and I hope the partnership got some students considering healthcare as a career. Perhaps some day I can recruit from this talent pool that the hospital had a hand in developing.

For better or worse, the CEO of a small-town hospital is an extension of the hospital. The community’s perception of the CEO shapes their perception of the hospital. If a CEO gains stature in the community, so, too, will the hospital. If the CEO is known to be caring, involved and approachable, then the hospital will be viewed in the same way. I am both the hospital CEO and a Fairfield resident, and I don’t separate the two. It’s not that I’m wearing two hats at once; it’s the same hat. I am the face of Freestone Medical Center, setting an example for other hospital employees to think of themselves the same way and act accordingly.

Indeed, part of the CEO’s role is to energize other members of the team to get involved in the community, as well. The Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters International, and similar organizations are easy access points for community outreach. Involvement in schools, sports and church provides opportunities for motivated employees to represent and give a positive impression of the hospital.

Looking forward, I envision opportunities to invite local law enforcement to dine at the hospital. I see all sorts of ways we can partner with and serve our senior citizens’ center. My experience has shown that these connections beget others, benefitting all involved.

It’s a sad fact that communities in general have a lower level of civic pride in local hospitals than they once did. Largely due to widespread consolidation, citizens lose the sense of connection to, and ownership of, their hometown hospital. All my interactions with the community help demonstrate the vitality and accessibility of Freestone Medical Center.

My goal is for people to think of their hometown hospital first when they think of healthcare. That’s as it should be, but in today’s healthcare climate, it cannot be taken for granted.

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