Up & Comers - 2014
CEO, Kearny County Hospital
First job: Cashier and other positions at McDonald's.
School spirit: Cheerleader at Drury University, Springfield, Mo.
Fraternity brother: Member of Kappa Alpha Order.
Improving the health status of residents in rural Kansas has been the mission for Benjamin Anderson for more than five years, work that reflects his passion for helping the underserved.
Since June 2013, he has led Kearny County Hospital, a critical-access facility in the small town of Lakin, Kan., in the southwest part of the state. Before that he led Ashland (Kan.) Health Center, which includes a critical-access hospital and a skilled-nursing facility.
Anderson said he is drawn to regions where he can help underserved and struggling populations. He recalled memories of his childhood, when money was tight while growing up in Hayward, Calif., before moving to Springfield, Mo., at age 15.
"I know what it means to be hungry," he said. "We also used to get medications from the same clinics homeless people would, because we wouldn't be able to do so otherwise."
He's also a veteran of overseas missions, having traveled to rural Zimbabwe five times in the past five years to serve at Eden Children's Village and Karanda Mission Hospital to help improve local healthcare in partnership with the Via Christi International Family Medicine Fellowship.
Anderson's missionary spirit also influences how he operates as an administrator, said Kendall Kay, mayor of Ashland, Kan., where Anderson was CEO of the town's hospital for more than four years before moving to Lakin.
For some time, Ashland Health Center struggled to attract clinicians to the rural setting. Through Anderson's efforts, the center recruited two doctors with a unique proposition: He would allow them to take up to six weeks' leave to do mission work internationally or elsewhere in the country.
"Having a doctor for 10 to 11 months out of the year is better than nothing, and it's coverage we wouldn't have had otherwise," Kay said.
Since coming to Kearny, Anderson has led an effort to launch the Pioneer Baby program, which aims to reduce the hospital's high rate of gestational diabetes, which occurs in 11% of pregnant women being treated at the hospital vs. the national average of 4% to 6%, Anderson said. --Virgil Dickson