Jim Bross discusses outlook in new position as head of St. Luke’s

Published 10:00 pm Friday, July 29, 2016

A welcome sign at the entrance to St. Luke’s campus encourages staff and community to welcome new CEO Jim Bross through use of the social media hashtag, #WelcomeBross. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

A welcome sign at the entrance to St. Luke’s campus encourages staff and community to welcome new CEO Jim Bross through use of the social media hashtag, #WelcomeBross. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

This summer, St. Luke’s Hospital has undergone a big change with former CEO Ken Shull retiring after seven years with the hospital.

Closely coinciding with Shull’s retirement, the hospital has also

Jim Bross

Jim Bross

welcomed Central, S.C. native James Bross to the team as their new CEO on July 25. Bross, along with his wife Angie, have been working on relocating to Polk County.

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A drop-in welcome reception for Bross will be held at St. Luke’s Hospital in the family waiting area of the orthopedic wing on August 2 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The public is invited.

“We, my wife, my daughter, and I have been in this area for 25 years and my daughter is now working in upstate South Carolina,” Bross said. “I feel like this is home because we’ve been here for 25 years, and I’m delighted to be back here. Community health, for all of us, is a great interest and great priority since we live here.”

Bross is a 1984 graduate of Southern Wesleyan University and received his master’s degree in business administration from The Citadel in 1991. He said he got into the healthcare industry in 1984 as an undergrad when a family friend in the industry gave him a job opportunity in healthcare finance in Hickory, N.C.

He has worked in many communities of Western North Carolina, most recently at Angel Medical Center, an affiliate of Mission Hospital, in Franklin, N.C. as their CEO from 2012 onward before accepting the CEO position as St. Luke’s Hospital, a 35-bed not for profit community hospital located in Columbus, N.C.

“Providing community health access and community health improvement is the number one priority,” Bross said. “When we think about what St. Luke’s offers today and what it will offer in the future, we have to think about how we provide the right access and the right care in the right place at the right time. You can only do that in the right hospital setting, and so we’re excited about what St. Luke’s has to offer.”

In the long run, Bross said he wants St. Luke’s to meet and exceed the needs of the community. The last two community hospitals Bross served were named as national Top 100 hospitals. Bross anticipates the same success will occur at St. Luke’s.

Carrying on Shull’s legacy is also a part of Bross’ focus going forward, as he said he has the same values Shull exhibited while at St. Luke’s.

“There are two things involved in that. Firstly, Ken has my utmost respect in his body of work — and I don’t say that lightly — that he has accomplished in his seven years here,” Bross said. “It’s an awesome sense of responsibility. I’ve had a great respect for him before and an even greater respect now. Though I am not Ken, by the same token, I have a lot of the same values in connecting with the teammates and the community.”

With smaller hospitals, Bross said he feels St. Luke’s can get things done efficiently and he said smaller hospitals have more freedom than bigger institutions.

“Hospitals, in general, tend to kind of be large and bureaucratic, and they can be scary and institutional, for good reason,” Bross explained. “Community hospitals, like St. Luke’s, and my previous employer, really offer a scaled-down version of that and they are, I believe, more hometown and patient friendly. We can also be more nimble on the operating side in providing the right array of clinical programs and services to meet the community’s needs.”

Following a week of orientation in Charlotte through the Carolinas HealthCare System, Bross officially began as CEO on July 25 and said his first day was terrific, as he’s been engaging with the staff, patients and physicians at the hospital.

Kathy Woodham, director of public relations and marketing at St. Luke’s, said Bross  also spent the first week as CEO out in the community, meeting with local leaders including Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield and Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene, and with clubs like the Tryon Kiwanis Club.

“It’s important for him to know and understand the people and the healthcare needs of our community,” Woodham said. “As CEO, Jim is now guiding Polk County’s largest employer, getting to know about 300 or so employees and managing a $15,296,000 payroll. New to this community, he is well aware of the importance of having access to quality healthcare. It makes for an improved quality of life to attract newcomers to the industry.”

Patient rounding, Bross said, is a core value of the St. Luke’s physician and senior team as it has an impact on the patients and their families.

“It has been tremendous, and I have first connected with leaders and physicians so we’ve kind of really focused on reaching out and making sure I have had face time with our senior leadership team so they know me,” Bross explained. “I’ve been going around meeting and greeting physicians and the medical staff to make sure they know me.”

When he’s not at St. Luke’s Hospital, Bross said he likes to workout in lightweight training and running exercises, take photos as an amateur photographer and cheer on the local high school and college football teams including the Clemson Tigers.

Bross said this love for the Clemson Tigers has been fun to bring up around Shull, who is a South Carolina Gamecocks fan.

“Though it may sound patronizing to some, I really believe in personal health management and one of my family’s priorities is to be active and that’s been fun,” Bross said. “We’re really, really big sports nuts. We’ve always been really engaged with what’s going on with local high school sports and we’ve always used that as an opportunity to connect the health services with the county schools.”

Community engagement outside the hospital is another focal point for Bross as he begins his new career.

“Community involvement and engagement are things that I have enjoyed as part of my experience,” Bross said. “We’re part of the community. We go to church, we go out and eat and we get involved in the community organizations, whether it’s civic clubs and other activities in addition to our formal role of providing healthcare. We, the senior team and myself, put a face to what we are as an organization.”