After a long and varied career in public education, Harold W. “Doc” Arnett has joined the administrative team at South Central Kansas Medical Center. Arnett’s background includes teaching at high school and college and serving as an administrator in both settings as well.
“I think this new challenge as director of marketing is really going to tap into several areas of my interests and abilities,” Arnett stated. “I have an extensive background in research and writing that goes back over thirty years. In addition to the typical communication duties that teaching and administration both require—written communication and public speaking—I’ve also gained a lot of experience in creative writing. I started publishing as a free-lance writer back in the 80’s and have continued that ever since.”
Arnett also indicated a long-term interest in public relations and marketing. “Ever since I was in high school, I’d come up with ideas for commercials and ad campaigns. That was mostly to amuse myself and my friends. I’m genuinely looking forward to this opportunity now to turn my imagination and creativity toward actual responsibility.”
“As a college administrator, I worked closely with our recruiting and marketing people on different initiatives and had multiple opportunities to observe different approaches to handling media issues,” Arnett notes. He sees building trust as a vital part of developing an effective public relations role.
“People know that this job requires you to put issues in a positive light as much as you can. But if you want to gain their trust, you have to stay within the realm of truth. Once people suspect that you are hiding things or misrepresenting situations, you’ve lost it. I think trust is a key basis for effective communication and relationships.”
According to CEO Jeff Bowman, the trust issue was a key factor in his decision to hire Arnett for the new role. “I first learned about Doc from Jay Warren [hospital board member] who urged me to contact him about this position. From Jay and then from talking with Doc I had the impression that he was an extremely honest person, someone who genuinely cared about integrity. I also felt that he and I had very similar and compatible leadership styles.”
When asked about the challenges, Bowman admitted it’s going to be an uphill climb for Arnett in his new role. “You have a hundred great stories from patients about their treatment and experience at SCKMC but it seems like all people remember, think about or talk about are the three horrible stories.” Arnett is aware of the challenge of changing perceptions.
“It’s not quick, it’s not easy, and there’s not a clear path to getting there,” he admits. “I think it’s something that requires patience, persistence and positivity. In the few days that I’ve been on the job, I’m really impressed with the other employees that I’ve met. You pretty quickly understand that they really care about each other and about doing a great job for the people who come in for medical services or treatment.”
In spite of the challenges, Arnett and Bowman are both optimistic. Bowman states, “I’ve found that Doc is well respected in the community here. He’s extremely good at speaking and writing and I’ve observed him talking with other people. He just has a way of really engaging with them.” Arnett claims there’s a simple explanation for that: “I like people and I find that most people are likeable if you take a little time to listen and get to know them.”
He continues, “I was immediately impressed with Jeff Bowman when I first met and talked with him back last fall. He had concrete ideas about how to improve things at the hospital, ideas that made sense to me. “ In addition to the creative challenges, Arnett indicates that he sees another benefit in his new job. “One of my top priorities is being able to respect and trust my supervisor, the organization’s leader. With Jeff, I have that. I’ve already heard very positive things about him from other employees. I hope that I can prove that his respect and confidence in me is not misplaced.”