Ray Shoemaker, 34, got his first official healthcare administration job in 2001, but it was when he joined the military at age 17 that he began to develop the leadership skills that would guide him to his current position as chief executive officer of Tri-Lakes Medical Center Health Systems, Batesville, Miss.
"You get true leadership skills in the Army," Shoemaker says. "When I initially joined, I was just a young, immature kid. The military put me in a position where I was ahead of my peers from a standpoint of leadership, work ethic, enthusiasm and the ability to build a team. It's just a different playing field -- a ton of leadership, but also structure. When you translate that into the corporate market, you're going to be ahead of your peers."
Within a year of his honorable discharge as a captain in the Army, Shoemaker was the program administrator of a newly developed behavioral health-services unit for Tri-Lakes Medical Center; he took the post in March 2002.
After opening and developing the facility's only financially viable program, he quickly moved up through the system during a period of financial distress. Robert Corkern, a physician and the center's former CEO, hoped Shoemaker could duplicate his success as a program administrator into the same success as chief operating officer of the 93-bed center. In July 2003, Shoemaker beat out four senior vice presidents for the COO post, and prompted a $3 million turnaround over a 10-month period.
As the state representative for Mississippi's 11th District, where Tri-Lakes is located, Leonard Morris noticed the impact of Shoemaker's financial and service-related achievements. "It is my opinion that Mr. Shoemaker not only single-handedly saved our hospital from bankruptcy, but is responsible for transitioning this facility from a local hospital with limited services to a state-of-the-art regional medical center," Morris says.
In his current role as CEO, Shoemaker is responsible for 550 employees, and he attributes his successes to them. "I got here in March 2002, and it's been a pretty upward incline -- a great deal of it is being fortunate enough to work with a lot of great people."
CEO since November 2005, Shoemaker hopes to create an environment that is mutually beneficial for customers and employees, and his focus is now set on building the system. He would like to acquire more facilities to improve the delivery of care. "We are geared and postured to be the best healthcare facility in the nation, and the people we serve deserve it," he says. "They deserve quality and affordable healthcare."
His ultimate goal is to change the face of healthcare in Mississippi, and he aspires to move into politics with a healthcare platform. "I'm always looking for something more. ... You will hear my name again, from a political and healthcare standpoint. We're coming. We're going to make an impact."