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Joseph Powell, former CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care, dies

By Ashok Selvam
Posted: August 13, 2013 - 2:00 pm ET

Joseph Powell, the longtime president and CEO at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. in Memphis, has died at 86.

Powell, a native of Etowah, Tenn., died Aug. 2 after a long illness. It was under his guidance that Baptist transformed from a two-hospital organization to a full-fledged regional health system that currently includes 14 hospitals.

He spent 14 years, from 1980 to 1994, working as Baptist's president and CEO. Powell arrived in 1954 at Baptist as an administrative resident, the fifth such resident in the organization's history. He spent 40 years working at Baptist in various capacities.

Powell believed in the power of scale and much of the success from the system's expansion was due to his efforts, said Stephen Reynolds, Baptist's current president and CEO and Powell's successor.

“He had a keen mind—oh my goodness—and a photographic memory,” Reynolds said. “He was very opinionated in delivering healthcare. He tried to lead by example and believed everybody should be a contributor.”

Like every successful healthcare leader, Powell knew communication was key, and Reynolds said his friend had a gift for establishing strong relationships with physicians. Powell helped expand the organization into areas including West Tennessee, North Mississippi and East Arkansas. Though Baptist's flagship facility in Memphis was renowned, Powell wanted to improve services in other areas so patients wouldn't have to travel far for good treatment, Reynolds said.

Powell earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and a master's in healthcare administration from the University of Minnesota. After his retirement from Baptist, he served as a senior consultant for the system. Powell also led Baptist's foundation.

He also served as a trustee at large for the American Hospital Association and served on the board at the National Committee for Quality Healthcare Care, the Healthcare Research and Development Institute and the Healthcare Leadership Council.

Reynolds met Powell in 1968 while Reynolds attended Arkansas State University. Powell was a mentor, who advised Reynolds to embark on his healthcare career.

Follow Ashok Selvam on Twitter: @MH_aselvam


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