Alva Review-Courier -

New KDH CEO promotes a pro-active approach to medicine for the community


October 3, 2018

Yvonne Miller

With vast experience as an administrator, Robert Whitaker is the new CEO of the Kiowa District Hospital.

Robert Whitaker may have started out with an industrial engineering degree managing hospital construction projects, but his career turned into overseeing medical centers in roles as administrator, chief operating officer and chief executive officer. Whitaker's career has literally taken him and his family throughout the United States.

He received a master's degree in public health at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.

"That was an amazing experience," he said.

Whitaker became an assistant CFO in North Carolina and with the same company moved to Florida where he spent three years in Naples. He joined another company and was an associate administrator of a healthcare facility in Las Vegas. His next stop was in Liberal, Kansas, where he was a chief operating officer of a hospital.

So, you ask, how did Whitaker come to Kiowa, Kansas?

He explained that he knew Godwin Fey from working with him on another job. Fey is founder of Cohesive, the consulting and management company KDH is contracted with for the second year. Whitaker said Fey asked him to become administrator/CEO of KDH.

In his new position near two months, Whitaker said, "This is an amazing hospital with amazing people." He attributes that to "the people care about what they do and they care about each other."

Whitaker said his goal is to promote KDH and its providers in a new way. "I want to get our providers out in the community." For example, he'd like to hold educational classes in the community on pertinent subjects like dementia, diabetes management, symptoms and signs of diseases, etc. He wants to teach people to be pro-active about their health – "for people to manage their health and be happy."

Part of that preventative care KDH offers is a Health Fair Oct. 26 from 6:30 to 11:30 a.m.

KDH offers a behavioral health counseling service for those 65 and older known as "Strong Mind" (formerly called Senior Strong). "Our goal is for our counselor to have clinic days and take appointments."

"I want to provide services people really need," the new administrator said.

KDH is a 10-bed facility. Referring to their number of swing-bed patients, Whitaker said the hospital averages four per day.

Whitaker spoke excitedly about a Medical Explorers program, which is a partnership between the hospital and South Barber High School in Kiowa. This community service program exposes participating students to the numerous careers available in the medical field. Part One of the program consists of monthly meetings to talk about different career fields. Eight students attended an introductory meeting. Next month will cover nursing careers. Future meetings will cover radiology, lab, etc. Then Part 2 is job shadowing, for which students earn credits. Currently two students are participating, one in nursing and one in PT.

Because of the success of the KDH Physical Therapy Department (and other outpatient therapies such as occupational), Whitaker said there is a need for building an expansion to house these services. Those services are currently housed in a somewhat small room at the hospital that was intended as a board meeting room when the new hospital opened in 2014.

"We have a great foundation," the CEO said the Friends of the KDH Hospital and Manor Foundation. Headed by Judy Schrock, the foundation has started a campaign to raise funds for the physical expansion of KDH Outpatient Therapy Services.

The KDH Foundation plans a Jeans and Gems fundraiser Saturday, Nov. 10, at Kiowa's Community Building (that's changed from the date originally announced). The theme this year is Buckles, Boots and Brisket. There will be silent and live auctions and an after party. The First State Bank is one of the "gem level" sponsors this year.

A Look at New CEO Whitaker

Whitaker and his wife Amy have five children: Caleb, 18; Bethany, 16; Seth, 13; Eve, 10; and Susanna, 6. Their oldest son is on a two-year mission trip. The rest of his children and wife remain in Liberal presently while he rents a house in Kiowa.

Whitaker said his family enjoys traveling together. He likes to cycle and has competed in some sprint triathlons. He enjoys tennis, basketball and golf. His Houston ties carry over in his love of sports, being a fan of the Astros, Texans, Rockets and the University of Houston.


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