By Chuck Crumbo
Published Sept. 2, 2015
Michelle Logan-Owens was 11 years old when she decided what she wanted to be when she grew up.
The idea struck her while accompanying her mother on their frequent 100-mile roundtrip from Pinewood in Sumter County to Baptist Medical Center (now Palmetto Health Baptist) in Columbia, where her terminally ill grandfather was being treated for mesothelioma.
Even though she wasn’t the patient, the nurses and doctors made it a point to also take care of her mother, making sure that she got her rest and would eat, Logan-Owens said.
|Michelle Logan-Owens, interim CEO of Tuomey Healthcare System. (Photo/Provided)|
From that experience, Logan-Owens began a career path that would take her from medical tech to the executive suite. She presently serves as acting president and CEO of Sumter-based Tuomey Healthcare System.
A 1990 graduate of Furman High School, Logan-Owens began her career at Tuomey as a clinical technician on the Surgical Inpatient Unit and became a registered nurse, working on the hospital’s Oncology Unit.
Last year, she earned a doctorate in health care administration from the Medical University of South Carolina. She has a master’s degree from MUSC and an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina.
Working in the Oncology Unit may be the toughest of dozens of tough jobs in a hospital. In that unit doctors and nurses work daily to help patients fight for their lives. The emotional toll can be wrenching.
She drew strength to perform her job from her patients and their families, Logan-Owens said.
“You see the courage that so many of them have and you draw on their strength,” Logan-Owens said. “We’re inspired by seeing their fight, their will. We’re in the fight with them and we’re part of the team.”
Logan-Owens has drawn on those experiences and what she has learned along the way to the executive suite to run Tuomey.
“The No. 1 thing is to appreciate everyone’s contributions,” Logan-Owens said. “No matter their role, everyone contributes to the patient experience. We, as leaders, should listen to their voices.”
Hospitals also have a tendency to pick leaders who have risen through the ranks. Having hands-on experience “gives a level of credibility with the staff and clinicians,” Logan-Owens said. “It’s important in establishing trust and opening lines of communication.”
The experienced leader understands the needs of the organization, community, staff and patient, she added.
“There’s no greater teacher than experience. It’s important in moving the organization forward,” she said.
Logan-Owens sees her role at Tuomey as transitional, helping to guide the not-for-profit operator of a 301-bed hospital into a partnership with Palmetto Health. The proposed partnership, announced in February, aims to align the two health-care systems’ operations.
Tuomey had been looking for a partner after being ordered two years ago by a federal judge to pay the government $237 million in damages after the court found its doctors had collected $39.3 million in fraudulent Medicare claims between 2005 and 2009. In the aftermath of the court ruling, two key executives resigned and Tuomey’s legal counsel withdrew as the system’s representative.
Before Tuomey can partner with Palmetto Health, the board has to reach an agreement with the federal government over the lawsuit, Logan-Owens said.
“I feel we’re getting closer,” she said, adding that a settlement in the suit could be announced in the next few months.
Tuomey, its staff, and the Sumter community stand to gain in the partnership with Palmetto Health, Logan-Owens said.
The advantages include eliminating the unsettled feeling in Sumter about the hospital’s future and Palmetto Health’s commitment to tithe 10% of its earnings to the community. That will allow Tuomey to do such things as expand its services into the community.
Another advantage will be having money for renovating Tuomey’s emergency department, she said. Built in the late 1990s for an annual capacity of 40,000 visits, the Tuomey emergency room records 63,000 visits a year. Logan-Owens attributes the higher number to patients without health insurance who use the ER as their primary care provider.
Once the two health care systems marry up, Logan-Owens figures she’ll find another role at Tuomey. “There can only be one CEO at Palmetto Health and that’s Chuck Beaman,” she said, referring to the Columbia-based system’s chief.
When she was promoted to vice president in 2008, Logan-Owens told an interviewer at the hospital that she believed in the Ralph Waldo Emerson saying: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
“But more importantly than fulfilling my personal philosophy, I want to do that which is in God’s will for my life,” Logan-Owens added. “Because ultimately it is not about me, it is about Him and the work He has prepared for me to do. I firmly believe that my ‘work’ is here, serving the patients and my community through this wonderful institution."
Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.