CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards has made it official: He is retiring, effective May 31, 2022.
Edwards began in leadership at the health system in 1992, and worked in various roles before being named as president and CEO in 2012.
He followed in the footsteps of his father, Charlie Edwards, who also served as CEO of Cox.
A search committee, made up of CoxHealth Board of Directors members, had already been named to choose the health system’s next president and CEO, and will begin immediately with the goal of having the next top executive in place before Edwards’ departure in May.
Chairman of the CoxHealth Board of Directors, Rob Fulp, says Edwards “will be greatly missed, but we will forever be impacted by his dedication to do right by the community he cares about.”
Fulp says CoxHealth is fundamentally built on family, a legacy of caring and deep location connection. “Steve has greatly extended this mission and commitment through his own efforts.”
Edwards shared his decision to retire with Cox employees through a letter this morning.
Here’s the entirety of that letter:
November 19, 2021
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Nearly every day, going on 30 years, I have worn a suit and tie to work at CoxHealth. May 31, 2022, however, will be different – I plan to don a T-shirt and shorts and work with our grounds crew. At the end of that day, I will retire as president and CEO. I started on the grounds crew and that is where I would like to finish my career.
Those who know me well should not be surprised by this news. In 1989, while completing graduate school, I made a detailed strategic plan for the rest of my life. The plan was filled with seemingly unattainable dreams of career and life. I dreamed of moving back to my home town, marrying the girl of my dreams, having a wonderful family, and eventually becoming CEO of CoxHealth. Although I couldn’t have imagined it at the time, my dreams have come true.
Among the goals and milestones, I planned to retire around age 55 and then later teach. Toward that end, I began planning and aggressively saving at 24 years old. I am now 56, and I feel my 20-something self was right: it is time. Recent personal factors reinforced this decision. This is a 24/7 job, and it can take a toll. I lost my father shortly after he retired. He had given everything he could to his family and this organization, sometimes neglecting his own wellbeing. I worry I may be facing a similar challenge.
In the past year, I discovered I had cancer. I was privileged to receive amazing care guided both by our team at CoxHealth and the Siteman Cancer Center. After successful surgery, I am recovering well and I feel strong. However, in this cancer journey I was blessed to gain perspective, which affirmed my decision to retire.
Immediately after retiring, I plan to spend most of my time with my family, who have stood by me even though the demands of the pandemic tried to pull me away from them. Beyond caring for them, I will spend much time cycling, backpacking, kayaking, fishing and generally being more carefree. While I am retiring, my work is not done. I plan to stay on at CoxHealth in a limited advisory capacity assisting leadership changes and helping teach and coach future leaders.
I have been honored to serve as CEO for 10 years, and I am grateful to be part of a team that has achieved so much. We have expanded across the region through new hospitals, facilities, and partnerships. We created Cox Medical Group, a 750-provider organization, and when complete, we will have added five new 30,000 square-foot super clinics. We have seen our employee base grow from 7,500 to 12,500, and we have been repeatedly recognized as a best employer by the Springfield Business Journal, Modern Healthcare and Forbes. I am especially grateful that through my tenure we have had no layoffs.
I am proud of our auxiliary who have been recognized as Auxiliary of the Year by the Missouri Hospital Association four times in the past ten years. We have been recognized by U.S. News as a best hospital, and by CMS as a 5-Star Medicare Advantage plan. We have materially strengthened our financial base, which better prepares us to withstand future storms. Most recently, we have battled a pandemic, coming together with a unity of purpose and serving with every ounce of our strength.
These are moments that I will never forget. However, I think it is rare that a CEO can be highly effective beyond 10 years. It’s easy to become rigid, recalcitrant and inadvertently thwart progress, which are things I never want to do. It has been my most important priority to develop our future leaders. Our team is loaded with talented people, tested and forged into amazing leaders through the pandemic. It is time to let them lead.
Our Board has established a search committee to find our next leader. I believe this person can be found from within, but that is a decision for our board to make. I have profound respect for our Board of Directors, and I have been honored to serve them. It has long been our advantage that our board members live locally and care deeply about our community. I am confident they will make the best choice for our future.
It has been the greatest honor of my life serving this organization, the people, and the community I love.
Steven D. Edwards
President and CEO