A steady hand and clear vision

When I recently heard a rumor that St. Luke CEO Jeremy Armstrong was going to leave the hospital, I hoped it was exactly that, a rumor that could be dismissed as soon as I could ask Armstrong about the situation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a rumor; it was accurate, and Marion will be losing an excellent community member in June.

The past eight years have been a tumultuous time for the health care field, especially for rural hospitals. Add into that the worst recession since the 1930s and for a rural hospital just to keep its head above water would be an accomplishment. What St. Luke got instead was a monumental building project, expansion, and renovation that improved the hospital while also bringing it more in line with the realities of modern medicine where fewer inpatients are staying in rural hospitals but more rehabilitation services are sought.

There are many people who deserve credit for that accomplishment, and Armstrong would be the first person to say so. But organizations take cues from their leaders, and Armstrong didn’t settle for trying to weather the storm.

What has impressed me the most about Armstrong is what an even keel he has. I’ve never seen him get worked up about anything. That’s a tremendous asset for anyone, especially someone in a leadership role. It helps make an honest assessment of a situation, which is the first step toward making a smart decision, and it can help other people stay calm.

Hospital board member Steve Smith raised another point about what has made Armstrong’s time at St. Luke a success — he knows how to assemble other talented leaders and give them the support they need. While I don’t know what Mitchell County Hospital’s situation is, I’m confident Armstrong will do well there.

— ADAM STEWART

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