Michell Rupp: Joining me now is our president and CEO here at AFMC, Mr. Ray Hanley. Thank you for coming in the studio.

Ray Hanley: Thank you for inviting me, Michele.

MR: We’ve been able to get you in a couple of times over this last year.

RH: Always a pleasure.

MR: Thank you. We always enjoy having you. So, I want to talk to you about the state of health care and I’ll first ask you to dust off your crystal ball. You know, health care just came through arguably one of the most difficult strenuous unprecedented seasons in modern times. What do you think might lie ahead or what are some takeaways from what we’ve just weathered?

RH: The system bent but it didn’t break. The hospitals were terribly strained, big and small. They got through it. I think the public health folks, the Health Department, Governor’s Office, AFMC, everybody pulled together. I think we certainly were out there in the vaccination; testing business and I think we’ve gotten through it. I think hopefully we have learned a lot. If you look at the recent numbers. Well, covid test, positive tests were up, deaths are way down. Hospitalizations are down. I think we know the vaccines have made a big difference. I think we have come out of this with a real appreciation for staff health care professionals, particularly nurses, which we’re going to need a lot more of, I think, in the in the years to come. But the good news is we came through it.

MR: You make an interesting point that I hadn’t really thought of. It hadn’t occurred to me that the system the healthcare system itself. It yes it bent almost into a pretzel, but it didn’t break.

RH: No, it didn’t. And particularly in Arkansas it excelled. It came through everybody pulled together. AFMC, the physicians, the hospitals, the health department, the Governor’s office. And we got through it.

MR: We did we did and we’re stronger much stronger for it and ready for the next pandemic.

RH: We’re more ready than we were going into this one.

MR: More ready than maybe we were in 2018 right 2019. So, changes to Medicare as a result

RH: I think the biggest change and the most lasting change is the use of telemedicine both its acceptance by the patients, by the providers, by the payers. And I think particularly in a rural state like this with transportation challenges and provider shortages. I think telemedicine is here to stay. And I think that can do an enormous amount to improve the way Medicare patients access care more timely.

MR: You know the pandemic also kind of put a renewed spotlight on public health. How do you how do you think the perception of public health has changed or what what’s the perception now moving forward?

RH: I think before this before the daily briefings for most of the year by the governor and the director of the health department. I think the general public didn’t really know much about the health department. I mean they; some people knew they went to get their vaccinations for their kids, but it was sort of out of sight out of mind. And I think after seeing it on page one of the paper for a year, the stats, the press briefings that the governor ran, I think it is much more in the front and center of people’s minds and I think and hope that they appreciate what they saw happen over the last two years. The leadership from public health in this state, from the governor’s command of it to Nate smith to Dr. Romero to Dr. Delahaye who are out there every day on TV, on radio and on page one, helping people through this.

MR: Let’s look back and talk a little bit about what AFMC did. AFMC’s role because we were frontline as well.

RH: We were chosen early on to step out and help with the with contact tracing, with the case investigations, then vaccinations. Then the phone center work we were doing everything Covid related. MR; And still are.

RH: Still are out there now. We haven’t quit. We’re still doing what we’re asked to do particularly by the health department. And you know, I couldn’t be prouder of the team here. We had the height of Covid. We had as many as 700 employees, most of them working from home with headsets and computer monitors. We served literally thousands upon thousands of patients. And I think her team really, really shined.

MR: We embodied Arkansans helping Arkansans.

RH: You bet. And we had employees working statewide either on the phones in the clinics. Up in Searcy, serving the ice cream factory, the tv dinner factory. When the shift changed, we vaccinated I think 700 people one day in in Searcy. It was, it was really something to be proud of.

MR: Yeah, absolutely. And lead to new relationships in the business community as well.

RH: That’s right. And I think AFMC got a lot of notice which led us to partner with folks like Baptist Health do work with UAMS because people noticed AFMC was out there and AFMC was getting the job done.

MR: So, I’m curious as this show itself is nearing its year anniversary. You have a little bit of news?

RH: Well, I do. I think it’s not commonly known, you know, outside of the company here, but I am slated to retire the end of August after 12 years at the helm here.

MR: Take me back over those 12 years. How have you seen AFMC progress, transition, grow up, mature into what we are today.

RH: It has grown in terms of employees, in terms of the portfolio of customers. Certainly, in terms of contracts, revenue. We have doubled the size of this company in the last 12 years. We have retained virtually all the business we had, we added new customers. We added enormous new scopes of work like our call service center. We’ve added work in places like New Hampshire and Wyoming and Minnesota. And then obviously we were positioned to step up when Covid came. And it is a much larger, much stronger, much more diversified company then we collectively started with a dozen years ago. And it is because of the team that we have built here. That excelled and I’m very proud of the team that the board has let me assemble, including people like you. And I’m just really pleased.

MR: When you look back over those dozen years. Is there one defining moment? One moment that really sticks out that maybe even as a sense of pride that we did that on my watch.

RH: It’s several things. It’s keeping the renewed trust of the customers. It’s, you know, renewing existing contracts. But then it’s big things like seeing the service center stand up a whole new line of business with a couple of hundred people doing a variety of work for DHS and the Health Department. Training people to sit there with those headsets, take the calls, make the calls, help people in all 75 counties navigate the health system. And then of course Covid, which was an enormous challenge. And one we were picked to be out there on the front lines, and we got the job done.

MR: Very good, very good. Anything else? Anything else you’d like to share with us?

RH: No other than, you know, I’ve been in this health and public service business now for more than 40 years and I’m capping this off with being able to lead AFMC for a dozen years. Whatever I do or don’t do next has certainly been the highlight.

MR: Any immediate bike rides you have planned once you have officially retired

RH: Since I’ll be unemployed at least for a while for the first time in almost 50 years is my wife’s going to drop me and my bike off in Northern Minnesota at the headwaters of the Mississippi River and I’m going to take a month or so and ride to the gulf south of New Orleans. That’s my that’s my plan. And then I figured by the time I get to New Orleans I’ll know you know if I need another job or if I need to do maybe what I want to do.

MR: Or turn around and bite back up. Well thank you, it’s been a privilege to be under your leadership and even just for a short amount of time and see all the marvelous work AFMC has done.

RH: You have contributed to that mightily.

MR: Thank you. And thank you so much for joining us. We will see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.