Steve Stewart is the new hospital administrator at Meade District Hospital and CEO of Artesian Valley Health System.
His first day on the job was Monday, May 18.
Originally from Smith Center, Kansas, Stewart attended college at Fort Hays State University on a football scholarship, but eventually graduated from Kansas Wesleyan University.
Out of college, Stewart taught high school physical education, health, and social studies at Tescott, Kansas. While at Tescott, Stewart coached every sport the school had to offer at both the junior high and high school levels.
Stewart remained at Tescott for eight years until he returned to school at the University of Kansas to pursue a master’s degree, although not necessarily in education.
Steve said that he had observed that public school principals and superintendents moved around too frequently. However, the healthcare administrators he was familiar with at the time had been at their present jobs for more than fifteen years.
“I kind of got the mistaken impression that it was normal to stay that long,” Stewart said with a slight grin, “and it’s not in the health care industry.”
He eventually graduated from KU with a Master’s Degree in Health Service Administration. His first job as a hospital administrator was in his hometown of Smith Center.
Steve stayed at that position for four and a half years until he accepted a leadership position at the Great Plains Health Alliance.
GPHA is a consulting firm for small hospitals in western Kansas and Nebraska. Stewart was an Area Director/ Regional Vice-President for the firm.
“I thought it would be a good career move,” he said of the job change. “I don’t regret it and it was a neat job, but at the time I was a little too focused on my career and not focused enough on my family, and I regret that.”
After twenty years at GPHA, Stewart said he began looking for a simpler way of life.
“We had five Regional Vice- Presidents and we all had four hospitals,” he stated. “One of the Regional VP’s passed away.”
“We were looking for way to save money, the boss said he’d give us each another hospital.”
Stewart explained that his job at Great Plains was already requiring him to work seven days a week, he didn’t like the prospects of adding another hospital to his list of responsibilities.
“I was already working on Sundays just to get ready for the week, so I thought it was time to let the younger guys take over and I’ll move into a hospital where I’ll have more stable hours,” he said.
“It’s not that I’m not willing to work, I’m a hard worker, it’s just that there’s a limit to how much you want to work.”
Late last year Stewart learned that long-time MDH administrator Mickey Thomas was planning to retire.
Steve applied for the position and was hired earlier this year.
“I just truly believe that this is where God wanted me to be,” Stewart said of his new job at Meade. “When I came and interviewed here, it just seemed that things fell into place. It just felt like the place to be.”
“Since I’ve been here, that’s how I feel,” he added. “We’ve got great people here, we’ve got great people in the town, we’ve got great staff members at the hospital, and it’s got a good reputation.”
While he’s been in the healthcare industry for twenty-five years, Stewart admitted that it will take some time to get fully acquainted with the functions of the Artesian Valley Health System.
“I’m learning the ropes of what goes on in Meade,” he said. “I understand the overall operation of a hospital, I’m experienced in it. But you still have to know the day-to-day stuff for each hospital.”
“It’s different coming into a well-run hospital versus one you need to turn around pretty quick,” he added. “So I’m telling people I’m not changing stuff until I’m sure it needs to be changed.”
“If it’s working, it doesn’t need to be changed, unless we can change it and make it better.”
“My vision, it’s pretty simple,” Stewart said of the district’s hospital, nursing home, two medical clinics, and wellness center. “I simply want to be the best community health system we can be.”
“I’m going to stick around,” he added, “do the job, and enjoy it.”
Steve Stewart is divorced and keeps close ties with his three adult children. In his spare time, he is affiliated with the Cowboy Fast Draw Association.
-article by Tom Kuhns, Meade County News June 3, 2015