(Editor’s note: The March issue of The Lane Report features our semi-annual list of the Top Women in Business. At lanereport.com, we’re shining the spotlight on one of the honorees each day. Day 4: Connie Smith, president and CEO of Med Center Health in Bowling Green.)
Our occasional feature, Top Women in Business, highlights some of the women in and around Kentucky who are making an impact in business, the professions, politics and economic development. The intent is to recognize not the household names, but those in key roles whose work ethic and body of work are making important contributions to commerce—and life—in the area.
The 12 women featured in this issue are among the many such women The Lane Report editorial board has identified. From automotive manufacturing plant president to hospital executive, and economic development director to law firm leader, these women are forging their own paths, proving that hard work, perseverance and creativity pay off. And for the first time in this series, we’re shining a spotlight on some of Kentucky’s top female television personalities, offering a glimpse behind the camera.
Connie Smith began her career at Med Center Health 39 years ago as a nursing assistant with big dreams. In 2011, she was named president and CEO of the six-hospital health care system headquartered in Bowling Green.
Title/company: I serve as president and CEO of Med Center Health, a six-hospital, not-for-profit regional health care system headquartered in Bowling Green, Ky.
Previous positions: My entire career has been with Med Center Health. I began as a nursing assistant, worked as a staff nurse and progressed through nursing leadership, including vice president of critical care services. I served as administrator of one of our rural hospitals before returning to the Bowling Green campus as CEO in 1998. In July 2005, I became the first chief operating officer for the corporation, a role I held until my appointment as president and CEO of the system in 2011.
Education/training: Associate of Science in Nursing degree from Western Kentucky University, 1982; Bachelor of Science in Nursing from WKU, 1991; Master of Science in Nursing (administration) from University of Louisville, 1995. Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE); licensed as a nursing home administrator.
My top accomplishment: I would have to say our partnerships with WKU and the University of Kentucky to help solve our workforce shortage of physicians, nurses and physical therapists is the top accomplishment. For too long, the lack of physicians in rural Kentucky and the continuing shortage of available nurses and physical therapists have created a disparity in health care that needed a solution. We invested over $43 million in capital to build the academic space for WKU to double the size of its nursing school, provide space for WKU’s new DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) program and construct the commonwealth’s first regional medical school, the UK College of Medicine – Bowling Green Campus.
The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My father has been my greatest influence. I’ve watched him deal with chronic health issues for nearly 40 years while maintaining an incredible work ethic and a positive outlook on life. The late John Desmarais, our former president and CEO, was a tremendous influence as well. I learned so much from his leadership style and will always be thankful for the impact he had on my professional development.
My advice to younger women in business: My advice to young people would be the same regardless of gender. Be humble. Go for results, not status. Embrace healthy debate. Focus on the job at hand, and the future will take care of itself.
As a child, I wanted to be: In high school, my best friend and I signed up for a health care career track at the vocational school in Clinton County, Ky. From that point, I always knew I wanted to be a nurse. I never dreamed I would be president and CEO of a health system with more than 3,800 employees.
Something I love doing: I love spending time with family, including our two wonderful grandchildren. I enjoy running and hot yoga as well.
Book I’ve recently read: “The Five Temptations of a CEO” by Patrick Lencioni.
A song from my childhood/ teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (seriously).
In the next five to 10 years in my job, I hope to accomplish: I want to continue preparing those who will succeed me in leadership. While I’m proud of the many accomplishments we’ve realized already, I’d like to continue that growth, as it will have such a lasting, positive impact on community health for years to come.