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Decades Interview with Mike Mullins '87, FACHE

Mike Mullins ’87, FACHE
Senior Vice President, Ascension Healthcare
CEO and Kansas Ministry Market Executive
Via Christi Health, Inc.

Mike Mullins ’87, FACHE began his journey in health care  somewhat by happenstance. While a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso and working part time at a private school for children with learning disabilities, a teacher there encouraged him to look into health care administration as a possible career. The following year, while working at the snack bar at the Coronado Country Club, a member happened to inquire about his post graduation plans. When he mentioned he was thinking about health care administration, she introduced him to her husband, Bill Poteet ’70, FACHE, who generously spent time telling Mike about the industry and “most importantly, told me about the Trinity HCAD program.”

Trinity’s program gave him access to a “tremendous residency at Baptist Health System” in San Antonio which, in turn, spawned a world of opportunities. “The residency opens the door,” he says. “The rest is up to us to walk through it and do the work.” 

At Baptist, Mike received “invaluable support” from his preceptor, David Garret, and the administrative team. His first real supervisor was Trinity HCAD alumnus Dan Brown ’83 whose “values of hard work and concepts of physician relationships and service have stuck with me through the years.”

Those years have included positions with Quorum which he saw through the merger with Triad Hospitals and subsequently, the final acquisition by Community Health Systems (CHS). Along the way, he was fortunate to have exceptional mentors. “I stress the importance of mentors because these professionals embody what we are supposed to do to cultivate talent,” he explains. Mike was particularly impressed with the philosophies of Bill Anderson, Mike Parsons and Denny Shelton “who had mastered the art of physician relationships.”

As his career progressed, Mike enjoyed increasing responsibilities and assignments in larger hospitals. With CHS, he had the opportunity to enter multi-facility leadership and ended his tenure there as Regional Vice President with Quorum, supporting not-for-profit hospitals in Colorado.

Three years ago, Mike joined Ascension in the Indiana Ministry and was later promoted to Senior Vice President and serves as Ministry Market Executive, CEO for the Kansas Ministry. While leading and supporting the clinically integrated delivery system in Kansas, Mike is responsible for strategic direction, a budget in excess of $1 billion and 8,000 employees. He also spends considerable time on political action and legislation. Like many in the industry, Mike is facing the significant challenge of how to continue serving the poor and vulnerable in an era of rapidly declining reimbursement. “It forces the hard decisions to be made faster but still with compassion,” he says. With pressure magnified compared to former eras, he says, “We deal with it by showing up and leading our teams through tough times.” 

No stranger to tough times, Mike says his proudest accomplishment has to do with “the other side of my life.” Simultaneous with his career in health care, Mike spent 32 years in the Reserves, 27 of them as a Naval Officer. “The mobilization to Kandahar, Afghanistan and the work I had to do there has no match for anything I have done in my civilian career,” he recalls. “Completing that Navy tour of duty in a NATO environment, excelling at what needs to be done (reflective of the whole team) and doing things you never dreamed you would have to do is very impactful.”

On a happier note, Mike has been married to “a very tolerant woman” for nearly 32 years and they have two grown sons. He serves on the Newman University Board, participates in the Greater Wichita Partnership and has supported Rotary, Salvation Army and the United Way. When not working, he enjoys movies, playing basketball and, now in “my older age,” bike riding.

Despite the pressures and challenges he encounters at work, Mike loves his job and the opportunity it affords him to set the cultures for the organization he is entrusted to lead. “This combined with the privilege of service and mentoring others is very meaningful to me.”

By Mary Denny


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