Florida transplant Kyle Baxter is enjoying his new job in the Pee Dee.
Not quite a month into his position as chief operating officer of Carolinas Hospital System, the 33-year-old Fort Walton Beach native is looking forward to what 2016 holds in store.
“People have a choice where they get their health care,” Baxter said. “One of my goals – in case my wife or kids have to come to the hospital – we need to have the best of everything here at Carolinas, and I think we do.”
When Baxter was a 17-year-old high school student growing up in the Florida Panhandle, his grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse and he saw firsthand how important it was for a patient with various ailments to receive comprehensive treatment.
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“Throughout high school, visiting her in the hospital and all those different facilities, really made me want to get involved in health care,” he said.
Baxter’s interest in the world of health care broadened at the University of Florida while working on his bachelor degree in health science. Speaking to one of his classes one day, a health care administrator explained how a hospital functions.
“I really didn’t know there was this role,” Baxter said. “You hear about firemen, you hear about doctors. …” He laughed. “When I started college, I wanted to be a doctor, but by the second year, I wanted to work in hospitals and do this.”
Baxter stuck with his alma mater and earned a masters degree in health administration. Not long afterward, he found himself trying to organize an urgent care facility affiliated with North Florida Regional Medical Center, itself part of Hospital Corporation of America.
It was in disarray, but he saw an opportunity. He learned various aspects, such as what an outpatient physician does each day, what an emergency department can handle as well as handling a high volume of occupational care, such as pre-employment drug screens and physicals.
“I wanted to learn about everything. This was my chance,” he said. “The place was kind of a train wreck, so it was a good way to learn about these things.”
Streamlining the workflow of 30 employees and two physicians, his work garnered the attention of the hospital’s leadership who appointed him as director of business development and physician recruitment.
“It seemed to last a long time but it was a quick two years there, and it allowed me to interact with the administrative team at the hospital there,” he said.
Renovating one of the hospital’s catherization labs, recruiting 70 to 80 doctors over a wide range of specialties and gaining an intimate knowledge of the hospital from the ground floor up helped him greatly increase his comfort level in all administrative aspects.
“So that was fun for four years,” he said.
Vice president of operations for the hospital was his next role, which focused on helping improve the day-to-day functions of imaging services, food and nutritional services and laboratory services.
Darcy Craven, the chief executive officer for Carolinas Hospital System, said he is confident that Baxter will be an effective leader as chief operating officer at Carolinas Hospital System.
“Formerly serving as vice president of operations for North Florida Regional HealthCare, Kyle’s knowledge, experience and accomplishments will be beneficial to the operations of Carolinas Hospital System,” Craven said.
Planning to renovate the Carolinas Hospital System women’s center is something Baxter will tackle in the coming weeks and months.
“We’re really working on expanding and revamping our women’s services,” he said.
The next six to eight months also will see renovations of labor and delivery rooms as well as the Level 2 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Baxter is excited to be at Carolinas, and he said much of his time will be spent identifying areas of need and doing his best to prioritize.
“Being a large hospital like this where you have multiple facilities on your campus, you’re in kind of constant stages of renovation, repair and maintenance,” he said. “And it’s making sure you’re deploying those resources where you need.”
Baxter and his wife, Lin, have two boys: Logan, 5, and Brady, 1.