Not your grandfather’s hospital?

Published 4:37 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

If you’ve been around Polk County for any time and needed a hospital, you’ve undoubtedly remembered the days when St. Luke’s was known as the place to avoid. That was the harsh reality—deserved or not. When I arrived nearly four years ago, the hospital I found had an excellent orthopedic practice and catered to the seniors in our community. You traveled If you needed treatment for anything more complex. There were areas of care that you, our community, told us we need to improve.


We set our focus on righting the ship and we first had to focus on St Luke’s culture.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


Culture includes values and norms that determine how our team interacts with one another and the community. Culture is an intangible that guides employee behavior and helps to shape public opinion.


Cultural change is a huge undertaking. It’s like trying to guide the Titanic through a field of icebergs; you must move carefully yet deliberately, and there’s usually much more of “it” below the surface. At St. Luke’s, culture change meant implementing a new normal that included revised values, beliefs, practices, and communication methods. In addition, our change required short- and long-term vision, buy-in, confidence, and patience. And to be honest, it was a complicated process because it needed our teammates to adopt new ways of thinking.


While we’ve had turnover throughout this process, I am encouraged by the buy-in that has taken root. Our team is energized and engaged. Patient experience is way up, and innovative thinking is making a difference.  We have a positive culture of individuals who provide compassionate care. 


Throughout this process, we’ve worked harder to bring world-class to Polk County. First, we’ve added a Cleveland Clinic-trained urologist, Dr. Barry Bodie. St. Luke’s Cancer and Infusion has ascended to new heights under the leadership of nationally renowned oncologist and hematologist—Dr. Joe Stephenson. The services at St. Luke’s Orthopedic & Sports Medicine have expanded to include shoulder joint replacement and sports medicine, with five-star surgeon Dr. George Azar joining the practice with the extremely talented Dr. Thomas Cadier. Then there’s the addition of a new cardiovascular department directed by nationally recognized and Vanderbilt-trained cardiologist Dr. Evans Kemp. And lastly, we’ve elevated the care in our ER by working with doctors certified in emergency medicine. 


To strengthen our bench further, highly regarded, five-star surgeon Dr. Josh Knolhoff is relocating to our area to lead general surgery in early March. He’s an accomplished surgeon in endoscopic, laparoscopic, and open procedures. Moreover, Dr. Knolhoff is highly skilled in breast, hernia, biliary, colon, skin, image-guided diagnostic, elective, emergent, and acute care surgery. He has also done an extensive burn and trauma residency and is proficient in lines and ports. We are so excited to serve you in new ways in our expanded General Surgery program in 2023!


With the amassing of world-class talent, we knew we needed to acquire best-in-class technology to unleash their expertise. So, through your generosity, we’ve acquired 3D mammography, an ECHO stress-testing lab, and now GE Revolution Apex Elite Computerized Tomography. Our CT will be on line in January and providing a level of testing that is simply the best in the world. So, with these tools now online, we’ve unleashed world-class healthcare in Polk County and the surrounding region. We’ll share some of our success stories in the coming months.


Someone said to me some time ago….”this is no longer my Grandfather’s hospital.” They were referencing the fact that care has been improved and expanded and that their relative would be surprised by the excellence in care here if they were still alive. Today, St. Luke’s is stronger and better positioned to care for the greater region. As our complex services continue the expansion to reach people of all ages, we’ll be attracting more patients from Asheville, Hendersonville, Rutherfordton, Forest City, and Spartanburg for the specialties we are providing. While once a tiny hospital offering little more than essential life support, we’re emerging as a small yet significant player in regional healthcare. We are at the top of the list for critical access hospitals in a 200-mile radius. With a score 13% than the national average, we’ve outperformed most of the largest hospitals in the Carolinas in patient experience. And as we continue to raise our level of care, St. Luke’s Hospital will soon become the model for critical access hospitals in the south.


As we close out 2022 and look back, we know this is only the beginning. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements and care expansions as we enter 2023. We want to be not only your Grandfather’s hospital of choice, but the choice for healthcare for your entire family! And, we are getting there! 


If you have a healthcare topic of interest or would like to learn more about St. Luke’s Hospital, send me a note at Also, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or visit our website at