Page 40 - BusinessWest October 13, 2021
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 following her father into the medical field and earned her undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and an internship in internal medicine at Truman Medi- cal Center in Kansas City.
“I grew up wanting to go into medicine, and I was asked quite often if I was going to be an oph- thalmologist like my father,” she recalled. “Can- didly, I got tired of the question. It was through
a series of rotations and the fact that I needed money for car insurance that my father said, ‘why don’t you come work for me in my office?’
“I did, and I liked it,” she went on. “I didn’t tell him for a while, but I did make that transition, and eventually declared that this was the specialty I wanted to be in.”
This decision brought her to Mass Eye and Ear in 1995 for her residency and stint at the at the walk-in clinic and Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Service. She was there during 9/11, a moment
in time and her career that convinced her to be closer to family and, in her words, “focus more on family.”
Elaborating, she said she went into private practice in Indiana and eventually became man- aging partner of a multi-specialty group, one with a large geographic footprint.
The administrative leadership of that group would later put it in “a significant financial disad- vantage,” as Watkins put it, adding that she was thrust into the role of interim CEO. She said she would eventually wind down the two parent com- panies into multiple spinoffs, which are still ongo- ing today, an experience she described as both challenging and rewarding, and one that would in many ways inspire her transition into manage- ment and leadership roles.
“We were able to
keep patients seen, keep people employed, and move colleagues forward so they were able to prac- tice — it was a huge, huge learning experience,”
she told BusinessWest. “I joined one of the spinoff groups, but found myself wondering why I went through that experience.
“And it was actually a
couple of colleagues, nei-
ther of whom had medi-
cal backgrounds but did
have healthcare-industry
backgrounds, who said,
‘this happened to you for
a reason; you have this
knowledge — why don’t
you consider leading a
hospital or healthcare
system and pursue healthcare administration?’”
She thought about it and talked with family members, especially her father, to get buy-in and support. After securing it, she started pursuing healthcare administrative positions.
Her first stop was at Trinity Health in South Bend, Ind., and from there she joined Tenet’s Abrazo Community Health Network in Arizona as chief medical officer.
When that position was one of many elimi- nated in a round of budget cuts, she used con- nections she’d made to land a job as chief medical officer and chief operating officer at Paris Region- al Medical Center in Texas, a system that was and
Lynnette Watkins says one of her first priorities will be meeting with as many community leaders and constituencies — as well as frontline caregivers and hospital staff — as possible.
is surrounded by some of the poorest counties in Texas and neighboring Oklahoma. Her time there was another important learning experience.
 “One of the great joys of working there was working with people who keep in mind the indi- vidual who has limited access, limited transpor- tation, and limited resources,” she said. “And in rural facilities where
often there is one
specialist or one
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