Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome into this week’s edition of AFMC TV. We’re so glad you’re joining us today. Joining in the studio is our outgoing and incoming CEO of AFMC. Of course, Ray Hanley, who’s been a friend of the show from the get go and now Mr. John Selig who will be assuming the reins later next month as a matter of fact. And so, I wanted to just take an opportunity to have both of you gentlemen in to just talk. You know, Ray, you’ve had a long tenure here and of course a dozen years and we’ve loved having you on the show multiple times throughout the show’s first year. And so maybe just to kind of level set, maybe we start just with health care in general. Not that there have been any dramatic changes in health care over the last two years. Right. So, I’m curious to your point of view on the status of health care now as we are moving forward, we are making strides coming out of the pandemic. What does health care look like? Because I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like how it did in 2019, like how it looks now in 2022. So, Ray, I’ll start with you. What do you think?
Ray Hanley: You know, I think we learned a lot. I think we have a lot deeper appreciation for public health and the role they played and hopefully for the role that partners like AFMC play. We were out there every day vaccinating, testing. Trying to do our part. I think we learned a lot about vaccines and hopefully a lot better appreciation for the good that vaccines do and that we’re better prepared for the next pandemic. I think we learned a lot about telemedicine. I think that’s probably the most lasting thing that’s come out of this, particularly in rural state like Arkansas where telemedicine can really make a difference in the use of it, jumped way, way up. The providers and the patients learned a lot about it and how it works and value it. And again, that’s probably the biggest single legacy going forward.
MR: And John. What are your thoughts?
John Selig: Yeah, I certainly agree with Ray. I think, you know, a lot of people if they knew what public health was, they probably thought it was clean air, clean water, you know, come, and get your vaccinations and now they realize it’s much more. I think there is, I mean in some case for better or worse, I think because they were kind of mixed messages. I think part of what public health job now is now that it’s and the front and center is for people to really understand and build that trust that I think for so long that public health officials have had, it’s just kind of the smart thoughtful trying to protect the public health and I think that got a little muddy at times, but hopefully we’ll get back to that because I think public health plays a critical role. Certainly, agree with telehealth, it is change the way we do medicine, particularly for rural areas. I think people can get much better care. I guess the other two things that occur to me are one, I think there’s a much-heightened awareness of mental health issues, both because of the stress with the pandemic, but also in particular around kids, school aged kids and the need for services for them. And then I think at least in the short term the health care system has really been, people value what health care workers have done and saw how hard they worked. But it also created a lot of burnout. And so, I think the system is now trying to recover. I’m on the board of a local hospital and just trying to find the staff is a challenge and it’s not the kind of thing. And once nurses leave the field for example, and decided to do something else, you can’t just go get a bunch of new nurses because the nursing schools only have so much capacity. Medical schools only have so much capacity, so it’s going to take some time I think, to rebuild that workforce. But I think people sure realize how important it is.
MR: I want to, I want to touch on that briefly because as you mentioned as nurses are retiring or just leaving because you know what, I’m fed up and I’m and I’m finished. What does that do for recruitment in terms of students who are going into college? Are they looking at the medical profession thinking, yes, that is what I want to do, and I want to make that difference or is there a shift? And more of them are thinking that’s a little more than what I think I’m bargaining for.
JS: I mean, I think the demand is there. I think there are certainly not everyone, but I think there are a lot of young people who see what happened during the pandemic and saw what a critical role the nurses and doctors and others, techs, played and say I want to get into that field. It’s just going to take a while to get there. But I don’t think there’s a lack of demand for the slots, for example, in nursing school.
RH: And certainly, the salaries were built up quite a bit during covid and simply from an income potential career, it is more attractive than it was two years ago and I think that’s a factor too.
MR: One more topic I want to touch on, at least where the pandemic is concerned. We’ve talked extensively about lessons learned and whatnot. But we will deal with some of the ramifications such as mental health and young students for a while. Are there any surprises that may be coming down the line that we’re not ready yet or that we don’t, we’re not anticipating yet. Whether that is further delayed learning or a larger mental health crisis or impact than what we could have ever imagined. So, pull out your crystal balls gentlemen and look into that.
RH: I think if you look at how test scores are lagging in this state and how poorly Arkansas students compared to many other states and much of the world, I think part of that is the drag over the last two years, A lot of time missed in the classroom. A lot of home schooling that worked for some and not for others, a lot of loss of social activities and time with peers. And I think we don’t know for a while, but I think that certainly has some ramifications to deal with.
JS: Yeah, I think that’s right. And I think you saw, I mean all the studies show that it was particularly difficult for low-income families for families where you know, if mom or dad couldn’t stay home and help with the home schooling and the kids were kind of just on their own. It was much more difficult if you don’t have access to the internet or internet isn’t very good kids that there was, that divide grew. And I think I think that’s why you see so much attention now too really getting broadband out in the state, which I think this state is doing a good job focusing on that. I think that’s going to be critical. But I think as Ray says, this is the type of thing. I think you can see there’s been an adverse impact now. It’s hard to know three or five or 10 years down the road where the impact is going to last or whether those kids will catch back up. I certainly hope they do.
MR: Sure, sure. And we take for granted even just living in Little Rock, the WIFI, the high speed, knowing that in other places of the state, it just simply does not even exist. And so yeah, definitely some barriers to overcome. Okay, we’re going to make a hard left turn and Ray, I’m most interested in one of your favorite memories here from AFMC.
RH: You know, I thought about that, it is, it is really a collage of things, you know, I think about all the meetings around the table with the super smart, talented committed staff that leaders that we’ve built, all their ideas and hard work. We virtually tripled the size of this company over the last 12 years. And it’s not just about the revenue and the number of staff, but it’s about what this effort by this team did to improve health care when we were out there day to day running clinics, working the phones for thousands of people that needed help. We’re out there now, for instance, standing up health clinics in the historical black colleges in the state. It has been about so many opportunities that the team has created to make a difference and carry out the mission of improving health care. And I am just so, so proud of what we have collectively done.
MR: Yeah, definitely. John, I’ll turn to you. What a legacy you are inheriting. So what are just high level, just some hopes and dreams that you have?
JS: You know, as Ray said, they have had such an impact that there’s been growth, but as he said, in my mind, the growth is not as important as the impact on the health system and particularly the critical time of need, the support of the Medicaid program, the support of public health programs, Historic black colleges, there’s just, there’s so many opportunities, but you’ve got to go after them and they have done that Ray and the team have. So, I mean, I feel so fortunate to come in with such a strong team. I mean, Ray just left it in a great place I guess, you know, certainly not a situation where there’s no place to go but up because it’s already been up. But there’s just lots of opportunities. I really look forward to saying, okay, given all the strengths that we have and what AFMC has shown in the last few years. What do we now? Do you even have a bigger impact, you know, in particular in Arkansas. I mean, AFMC does work in other states, which is great kind of diversification, but I think the focus is still in Arkansas and improving the health care system here.
MR: Definitely. Ray, any advice that you would impart.
RH: I think listen to your, your team learn from them while you’re leading them, and which is sort of been my mantra. I’ve led them, but I’ve also learned a great deal just by listening to the team around the table.
MR: Well, in the two short years that I’ve been here, you’ve done an excellent job of both listening and leading and steering this ship through a pandemic for crying out loud. These have not been the two easiest years in any of our lives. And so, it’s been a true honor and pleasure.
RH: Thank you. You have certainly done your part.
MR: Well, thank you.
RH: Really proud of what you’ve done.
MR: Thank you. Well, gentlemen, anything else that you would like to add in our remaining moments.
JS: I don’t think so happy to be here. And I’m just so proud of the work that Ray has done.
RH: And I am pleased to be able to pass the baton to John. We have been friends and colleagues for the better part of 30 years. We worked together last in 2013 to pass Medicaid expansion. John from the DHS side. And myself on the private side. Leading a coalition of 35 groups that lobbied, day in and day out of the capital. And I’m just looking forward to John’s leadership and staying in touch with folks and see how I expect that the good things are going to happen.
MR: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, gentlemen, thank you both for taking time out today to be on the show.
RH: Thank you for having us.
MR: And thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.