Honoring a ‘health care giant’

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Honoring a ‘health care giant’

There’s no question Chief Executive Officer Donald J. Babb’s fingerprints are all over Citizens Memorial Hospital and CMH Health Care Foundation campuses throughout southwest Missouri.

And now, those visiting the flagship Bolivar campus will also find Babb’s name, front and center. 

During a reception Saturday, Jan. 4, CMH board chair Patrick Douglas revealed the hospital’s plans to name the Bolivar campus’ main building the Donald J. Babb Medical Center. 

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Babb, who’s been CMH’s only CEO in its 39-year history, is set to retire Friday, Jan. 31.     

Surrounded by a crowd of Babb’s friends, family and colleagues, leaders from across the state and nation came together Saturday night to honor Babb, calling him a compassionate champion, health care giant, leader in the industry, mentor and legend.

“From humble beginnings, we today employ more than 2,300 employees, have more than 100 physicians on medical staff, over 400 dedicated volunteers, have total gross revenues in excess of $480 million, own 50 buildings and have land in eight counties,” Douglas said. “We’ve come a long way, and we certainly did it on the backs of our employees and the vision of Donald J. Babb.”

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Donald J. Babb shares a smile and a friendly gesture with family, friends and colleagues gathered at his retirement reception Saturday, Jan. 4. 

Bolivar mayor Chris Warwick said Babb made an immeasurable impact on the community when he worked to bring a hospital to Bolivar nearly 40 years ago. 

Missouri State Rep. Mike Stephens, R-Bolivar, echoed Warwick’s sentiments. 

“Anyone who knows the story of CMH knows a number of us were in on its conception and inception and had the privilege to have the ride of our lives to turn not only this institution, but this community, into something far greater than it imagined it could be,” Stephens said. 

Stephens said when a group of people came together in the early 1980s to form CMH, they were “just too young, too naive and too stupid to know that it could not be done.”

“With that ignorance in hand, we marched forward, and so many wonderful things fell into place,” he said.

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Don Babb greets Brady and Missy Vestal during his retirement reception at CMH Saturday. 

Stephens said it was more than just vision that enabled Babb to spearhead bringing a health care system to Bolivar and growing it throughout the region.     

He said it was Babb’s “ability to see clearly what is already in front of you and to have the guts, the management skills, the work ethic and the tenacity to put it together.”

“The combination of those qualities — you just don’t often find dreamers and doers in the same package,” Stephens said. “That is Don Babb.”  

Herb Kuhn, president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association, said it’s common to see “stories from all across the country of communities, rural communities, struggling to maintain health care services.” 

“And as a result, sadly, you’re seeing some of these medical deserts start to creep up in communities all across this country,” Kuhn said. “But not here in Bolivar. What we’ve seen Don quietly build is a medical oasis.”

Kuhn said Babb was able to build up the CMH system because he recognized it as a community asset and was willing to collaborate and work with others to bring health care services to those in need.   

“To make this happen, Don was an early innovator,” Kuhn said. “He recognized you needed to go outside the four walls of the hospital. … It was about the well-being of the community. He has a nose for need like no one else I’ve ever seen.” 

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, who said he had a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol Saturday in Babb’s honor, said the community’s ongoing support is one reason CMH has been successful when other rural health systems have failed.

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Donald J. Babb sits back and smiles while speakers share memories during his retirement reception Saturday, Jan. 4. 

“You have to keep the community continuing to buy-in and give them a reason to want to be part of something extraordinary and exceptional,” Blunt said.  

But Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Bolivar resident and Babb’s longtime friend, said the CEO’s success was about more than just his vision and the community’s support. 

He said the secret to success is “never about being the best.” 

“It’s never about being the best CEO. It’s never about being the best governor,” Parson said. “It’s about making all the people around you better. If you can do that, you are going to be successful in your own right.”

Parson said Babb’s greatest legacy isn’t in awards and accolades, buildings and programs, but “in the people’s lives that he’s affected that he’ll never see, that he’ll never meet.”

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Donald Babb, right, is all smiles while Gov. Mike Parson shares his memories and prepares to read a proclamation Saturday night. 

“It’ll be about the people who come through these doors to have better health, to be better citizens, to have better lives, to have more opportunities, to live a little longer, to save a life,” he said.  

Nikki Strong, executive director of the Missouri Health Care Association, said Babb’s influence spreads far beyond the four walls of a hospital building or Bolivar city limits. 

“Most of you here this evening know Mr. Babb as a health care giant in the Citizens Memorial Healthcare system here in Bolivar and in the southwest part of the state,” Strong said. “But what you may not know or realize is that Mr. Babb has been a health care giant and a voice of health care for the entire state of Missouri.” 

She said Babb’s “passion, honesty and gentle yet stern demeanor earned him the respect of the entire long-term care industry.” 

Southwest Baptist University President Eric Turner, who said he calls Babb and his wife Carrie neighbors and friends, hopes to keep Babb’s influence alive for generations to come. He said the university has created a $10,000 annual scholarship to support students admitted into the Don and Carrie Babb Nursing Program on SBU’s Bolivar campus.    

Babb said Saturday’s reception wasn’t “just to celebrate my retirement but celebrate the organization and what it’s meant to the communities and the people who work here.”  

“Thank you for allowing me to do the work I’ve done for all the years I’ve been able to stay here,” Babb said. “I appreciate the opportunity so much to have served in this role and been a part of the community.” 

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Gov. Mike Parson, right, checks out Donald J. Babb’s blue suit during his retirement reception Saturday, Jan. 4.

Douglas said those who established CMH 39 years ago “never could have dreamed where we would have been” today.  

He said as the organization looks ahead to its next chapter, Babb has “assembled a highly dedicated, highly capable team of people.” 

“And to the CMH team, Mr. Babb has put us in a position to succeed, and we really couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Douglas said. “We will continue to be successful and continue to improve, and in doing so, we will honor our CEO, Donald J. Babb.” 

Moving forward

In a news release following Babb’s retirement reception, Gary Fulbright, former chief financial officer and the next CEO and executive director of CMH and CMH Foundation, announced leadership changes taking place this month. Fulbright is set to replace Babb upon his official retirement.

The release said Michael Calhoun will replace Jeff Miller as chief operating officer for CMH. Calhoun previously served as administrative director of clinics.

“Calhoun has worked at CMH for more than 20 years holding various positions in clinic administration, home medical equipment, materials management, information services, finance and pharmacy,” the release said. 

He earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration and a Master of Business Administration from Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar. Calhoun will have administrative oversight for hospital and clinic operations.

Miller has transitioned to administrator of Colonial Springs Healthcare Center in Buffalo, the release said. He has worked at CMH for 24 years and held numerous roles, including hospital administration, long-term care administration, human resources and home care services.

The release said Beverly Derrickson was promoted from administrative director of home care services to the newly-created position of chief operating officer for CMH Foundation. 

“Derrickson has worked at CMH for seven years and has more than 32 years of experience working in health care,” the release said. 

She previously served as the hospital’s director of finance from 2005 to 2008. Derrickson returned to CMH Foundation in 2016 and has had administrative responsibilities for home care services, long-term care admissions and pharmacies.

Derrickson has also held several hospital administrative positions, including CFO and CEO for Texas County Memorial Hospital in Houston, vice president of clinic operations for Catholic Health Initiatives in Joplin, and a principal for a national health care consulting firm based in Florida.

The release said she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting and business administration from Drury University in Springfield and a Master of Business Administration from Southwest Baptist University. Derrickson will have administrative oversight for long-term care, home care services and pharmacies operations.

Michael Galindo will replace Renee Meyer — who succeeded Fulbright as CFO — as director of finance for CMH Foundation, the release said.  

Meyer’s promotion was announced in June 2019. 

The release said Galindo joined CMH in September 2019. He previously worked as a senior financial analyst and service line coordinator of neurosciences for CoxHealth in Springfield. He earned a Bachelor of Science in finance from Missouri State University in Springfield and a Master of Business Administration from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas.

Finally, the release said Sarah Hanak was promoted from director of hospital nursing services to chief nursing officer. She replaces Lesa Stock, chief clinical officer, who has transitioned to director of medical staff services.  

“Hanak has worked at CMH for more than three years,” the release said. “She previously worked as a nurse manager and nursing administrative director for five years at Mercy Hospital, Springfield.” 

Hanak earned an Associate of Science in nursing from Southwest Baptist University St. John’s School of Nursing in Springfield and a Master of Science in nursing from Walden University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the release said.

Stock has worked at CMH for 24 years and has held numerous roles in hospital administration, medical staff services, managed care and medical insurance.

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Donald Babb, right, and Rep. Mike Stephens, share a joke or two during Babb’s retirement reception Saturday, Jan. 4. 

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