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Sellards' leadership expands St. Mary's

Citizen award
Apr. 05, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Quality health care is important for any community, including whether it's accessible to all parts of a region and there are enough trained individuals to deliver it.

As chief executive officer of St. Mary's Medical Center, Mike Sellards is attuned to those issues. And under his leadership, St. Mary's has worked to address them.

Last year, the hospital completed construction of and completed a $18 million campus in Ironton, Ohio, which had been without around-the-clock medical care for more than a decade. The new facility includes a seven-day-a-week emergency room and has imaging and lab services, as well as specialty doctors doing rotations.

Just a few years earlier, St. Mary's transformed the former Big Bear supermarket building at 29th Street and 5th Avenue into its Center for Education. It opened in 2009, providing a state-of-the-art facility to house St. Mary's School of Nursing, School of Medical Imaging and the School of Respiratory Care -- and providing the education and training for people to deliver health care for coming generations.

For those accomplishments and others as the head of St. Mary's Medical Center, Sellards has been named a 2012 Community Impact Award winner by The Herald-Dispatch as part of its Citizen Awards recognition.

Those who nominated Sellards pointed to his savvy business IQ and his ability to successfully merge the compassion and mission of the Pallottine Sisters with a 21st century health care system.

"Mike is truly a passionate and dedicated health care professional whose tireless service, both in the health care arena and in the other community services that he provides and supports, has made a real difference to the Huntington community," said Joseph M. Letnaunchyn, president of the West Virginia Hospital Association for the past six years.

Letnaunchyn said the success of St. Mary's at the local level is tied to Sellards' active participation at the state and federal level, making decisions based not just on the current state of health care but its future.

Sellards is an active member of the association's Board of Trustees and its executive committee, a position he's held for more than 10 years. He also has served as a state delegate to the American Hospital Association Regional Policy Board.

"At the local level, I have had the opportunity to see Mike in action through his implementation of the numerous changes that have occurred at St. Mary's Medical Center, both in new services that have been made available for patients, and in the facility changes and improvements that have occurred over the years to improve access to care in the Huntington area," Letnaunchyn said.

Sellards' caring demeanor and heart for St. Mary's goes back a ways, as he was born at that very hospital. He grew up in Huntington, then went to the State University of New York in Albany, where he had some family ties. He also attended Michigan State University to earn his master's in business administration.

He said he had an eye for health care, though there was no degree at the time for administration and management. But he said there was an internship/residency program with a hospital in Albany that allowed him to see its inner workings.

"Hospitals are very complex operations," Sellards said. "The business model has to be different. It's also a mission that is unique to the business world."

In Catholic health care, he said it's a ministry, which is part of the reason why St. Mary's has seen fit to invest the way it has.

The ministry at St. Mary's really points to two areas: health care and education. The former goes to the heart of the facility in Ironton, said Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence County Development Corp.

"Mike Sellards is a name well respected in the Ironton and Lawrence County area leadership community for his tireless efforts over the last six years to enhance the five community health centers operated by the Ironton/ Lawrence County Community Action Agency," Dingus said. "During the last three years, he shared in leading the effort to build an $18 million advanced medical center with trauma capacity emergency room services to serve the Ironton area at a time when the economy made the decision and effort extremely challenging."

Added Dr. Joseph Touma, who serves with Sellards on the Marshall University Board of Governors: "I'm also amazed by the new St. Mary's Medical Campus in Ironton. The creation of a new ER for the Ironton area shows St. Mary's commitment to serving the medical needs of underserved areas."

Touma also wrote of the importance of the other big investment made in The Center for Education. There, St. Mary's works on conjunction with Marshall University for three training programs, including the schools of Nursing, Medical Imaging and Respiratory Care. Last year, the first class of Marshall's School of Physical Therapy started at the Center for Education, through a long-term lease with the university.

St. Mary's also continues to lead the area in employment, with more than 2,600 people, a number close to 2,700 when counting the new Ironton campus.

"Seldom does an individual have the opportunity to make such a lasting contribution to his community and have an impact felt in so many different areas: economic development, education, health care and employment," said A. Michael Perry, member emeritus on the Marshall Board of Governors, retired banker and co-founder of Heritage Farm Museum and Village.

Sellards has been CEO since 2000, after spending time as CEO at Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant. He said he has one more challenge to lead St. Mary's through before he retires.

"One of the reasons I remained interested in health care is it's an ever-evolving business," he said. "And certainly with the Affordable Care Act, it could change more with that bill than the advent of Medicare in the 1960s. I would like to see that through to a fascinating model, then I'll turn it over to these young kids."

Sellards and his wife, Betty, have two children, one grandchild and another on the way, both by son Rob Sellards, an attorney in Huntington, and his wife, Valerie.

The Sellards' daughter, Jennifer Brotherton, lives in Charlotte with her husband, Scott.

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