Kurt Stuenkel, president and chief executive officer of Floyd Medical Center, offered sound advice to students in Shorter University’s Robert H. Ledbetter College of Business during a recent lecture.
“My encouragement to you – whether you are a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior – is to certainly pay attention in your classes,” he said. “These principles that you are learning in accounting, finance, marketing, operations management, and computer technology can serve you well. They serve me well in everything that I do in my daily tasks as CEO. When I look for talent, for individuals, to bring into an organization, I want to know that they have got that business grounding, that they can think in accounting and financial terms, that they can think about marginal cost and marginal revenue.”
Stuenkel was the first speaker in a four-part lecture series hosted by the Ledbetter College of Business to allow attendees to hear personal success stories and receive advice from business professionals.
Stuenkel began his remarks recalling his days as an undergraduate at Emory University. “I went to Emory University and was a liberal arts student. I spent a lot of time just sort of browsing through history and culture in my time at Emory University. I found that to be tremendously valuable, but then as I was finishing up, I began asking myself ‘Well, now what am I going to do professionally?’ The reason I went into health administration is almost literally someone tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘I think you’d make a good hospital administrator.’ …That started a series of conversations and investigations on my part.”
He took an entry level job as a patient billing collection specialist at Floyd Medical Center in 1981. “Any business has to collect on its bills, and I got an upfront look at that,” he said. He was soon promoted to the position of a special project administrator and enrolled in graduate school at Georgia State University, where he earned the Master in Health Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees. He previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Senior Vice President, Assistant Executive Director, Director of Professional Services, and Projects Officer for Floyd Medical Center and was named its President and CEO in 1996.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t draw on the knowledge I got in my graduate programs so I encourage you to pay attention in your business classes because they will hold you in good stead. Understanding the basics of accounting is the language of business. Understanding income statements and revenue statements and reading a balance sheet are all vitally important. Marketing is vitally important.”
Stuenkel also shared insights into the world of healthcare administration from outlining key “customers” including patients, doctors, and insurance companies to the importance of understanding the hospital’s purpose.
“Our organization was founded in 1942 by the community,” he said. “Our fundamental purpose in being founded 75 years ago was to meet the healthcare needs of the community. We are a not-for-profit corporation as contrasted with our main competition, Redmond Regional Medical Center, which is a for-profit organization and is owned by the shareholders.
“(Floyd Medical Center) exists for charitable purposes – to take care of our people, but having said that we still have to be profitable. We just don’t have shareholders; our shareholders really are the community. No tax dollars support Floyd Medical Center. The only way we are able to sustain ourselves is by encouraging patients and doctors to come and use us.”
Dr. Heath Hooper, Dean of Shorter’s Ledbetter College of Business, said Stuenkel’s lecture was a great learning opportunity for students. “Mr. Stuenkel elaborated on how important business principles are in his daily duties as CEO including microeconomics, marketing, management and accounting, discussing how each plays a role in his job functions. He emphasized to students the importance of academics, practical experiences gained through part-time jobs and internships, and networking in order to become a successful business leader. We are very grateful and honored to have had not only a successful business leader but also a pillar in the Rome community come and offer words of wisdom to our students.”
Chilufya Mwila, a junior business administration major at Shorter, said he enjoyed learning from a CEO like the ones he has read about in his textbooks. Mwila plans to own a business in the future and said that Stuenkel taught the importance of key concepts such as customer service and employee incentives.
“I enjoyed hearing about the business ethics aspect of Mr. Stuenkel’s job,” Mwila said. “Employee- and customer-satisfaction play a huge role in the plans for success of Floyd Medical Center, and Mr. Stuenkel did a great job at explaining this to us.”
Other lectures planned for the spring semester include Jimmy Collins, former President and CEO of Chick-fil-A, who will be speaking at 11 a.m. on Feb. 27; and Stephanie Graves, Associate Vice President for Marketing at Coosa Valley Credit Union, who will be speaking at 11 a.m. on April 17. Mrs. Graves earned her Master of Arts in Leadership from Shorter.
Public Relations Student Writer Caleb Britt contributed to this story
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christ-centered, four-year liberal arts university committed to excellence in education. The Princeton Review annually includes Shorter University on its list of Best Southeastern Colleges. The university offers traditional bachelor’s degrees in 40 areas of study, online courses and degree programs, undergraduate programs for working adults, and four master’s programs. Learn more about Shorter at www.shorter.edu.