After 42 years of working at and running SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital-Shawnee, CEO and lifelong Shawnee resident Chuck Skillings retired Friday, Feb. 7.
According to the 62-year-old, he began his career working for EMS while he was in college and over the years opportunities were presented to him to work at the hospital and help make it better for the community.
"I started here June of 1977...I became an employee of what was then Shawnee Medical Center Hospital...and I did that for a couple of years...and in February of 1979...(I) became the Director of the EMS for the hospital," Skillings said.
After 10 years in that position, Skillings said he worked on creating and developing the emergency medical services at the hospital.
The CEO explained working in that position he had some of the best years of his career and he worked on numerous projects for the hospital.
"In 1989 I was asked if I wanted to help developed a medical staff development and recruitment program," Skillings said. "My primary functions (were) to recruit physicians to work at the hospital."
He said he did this project for four years and then in November of 1992 Skillings became the Chief Operating Officer under Leon Noss and thought he'd be in that position for a while.
"I was certain Leon would be around for another 10 years and he wound up retiring six months later," Skillings said. "I got a new president and worked under him for about eight years."
During this point in his career, Skillings said he worked on the hospital's cancer center which was originally in the basement.
"We wanted to upgrade the technology and move it to the first floor and integrate it with medical oncology," Skillings said. "So I worked on that project for six or eight months and got it approved and off the ground and it has turned out to be one of the most successful projects that I've I had the opportunity to work on."
In 2000, Skillings said he was made the president of the hospital and he's held the position ever since.
The Seminole State College alum said he originally began working in the medical field to pay his way through college.
"I had no intentions in doing the medical field long term. I was studying law enforcement and I wanted to be a police officer," Skillings said. "I was within days of accepting a position into the academy at the Tulsa Police Department and ended up turning it down last minute...I just never left. From then on it was one opportunity after another that allowed me to stay here."
Over the last 42 years, Skillings said he's had five different positions at the hospital and for him the best aspect of his career are the people has had met.
"I get to work with an awesome group of people and I tell everybody that this business is about relationships and getting to make a difference in people's lives," Skillings said.
In addition to his work with the hospital, Skillings said he's participated in the REACT Board, the Avedis Foundation and other such community organizations.
"I do have a soft spot for rural health care because...(people) need help and they need some support outside of the normal circles," Skillings said.
While he's retiring from the hospital, Skillings said he will remain on the REACT Board, the Avedis Board and Blue Zones.
The Oklahoma City University graduate said in the last 20 years he's had the opportunity to work with great people and achieve amazing things for the community and its medical needs.
While he's enjoyed it, Skillings said his career has not been without its hardships, but he knew certain things had to be done to better the medical care for Shawnee and surrounding communities.
"There had been two attempts to the bring the hospitals together before I became president and when I became president...we started a dialogue and I decided if there was one thing I could do to secure health care in a long term fashion it would be to get the two hospitals together," Skillings said.
He explained after a year and a half of negations and contracts the two hospitals became one to offer the best health care for residents in Shawnee and surrounding areas.
Filling Skillings position as president is Angi Mohr who he said is more than qualified and perfect for the position.
"I hired Angi as an emergency medical director a long time ago and she's just been one of those individuals who has been very good at what she does," Skillings said. "She's done great things. I think the continuity in leadership has been a lot of the success that we've had."
Skillings said he's looking forward to retirement because he won't have to follow certain regulations and he will have some down time.
"I'm going to spend some time at the lake and spend some time chasing a grandchild and just wait and see what the next chapter holds," Skillings said.
While he's looking forward to retirement, Skillings said he will miss his staff and the friendships he has formed over the last 42 years.