Greenwood Leflore Hospital has hired as its new CEO a health care administrator who has spent most of the past decade as the top executive at hospitals in Virginia, Georgia and Alabama.

Jason A. Studley takes over as the chief executive at the Greenwood hospital effective Oct. 19, the hospital announced Wednesday.

Studley, 43, was selected following a nationwide search that included more than 200 applicants, according to Harris Powers Jr., chairman of the hospital board.

“I am absolutely confident the board and Search Committee made the best choice in selecting Jason,” Powers said in a prepared statement.

Studley said the "most powerful turning point" in his decision to accept the job "was the overwhelming passion and dedication of the community board, administrators, medical staff and front-line heroes to provide the highest quality and most advanced medical services to their community.

"I am deeply honored to serve a community that is well-prepared to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving health care landscape."

The Missouri native has 20 years of work experience altogether in health care administration. Most recently, he was the president of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston, Virginia, a town of about 8,000 near the border with North Carolina.

According to his profile on the professional networking website LinkedIn, he executed an $8 million turnaround in his first 12 months on the job there. Similar in size to 208-bed Greenwood Leflore Hospital, the Virginia hospital was designated a “Top 100 Rural Hospital” in 2019 by The Chartis Group, a national health care consulting firm.

After less than two years there, however, Studley resigned that position in December 2019. At the time, he told a news media outlet that his reasons for leaving were “just personal” but declined to elaborate.

Prior to his time with Sentara, Studley spent more than eight years with Community Health Systems, one of the largest hospital companies in the nation. He was president and CEO of Trinity Hospital, a 231-bed facility in Augusta, Georgia, for five years and CEO at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital, a 72-bed facility in Greenville, Alabama, for two years before that. During his tenure in Augusta, according to the Greenwood hospital’s press release, Trinity was twice named a Top 10 Hospital in Georgia.

Studley will become the fourth person to serve as the Greenwood hospital’s chief executive in the past 2½ years. He replaces Gary Marchand, who has served as interim CEO since October 2019.

Marchand, a veteran hospital administrator on the Gulf Coast who came out of retirement to take the position, was initially expected to serve as a three-month stopgap. He never expressed an interest in the permanent job.

Powers, the hospital board president, credited Marchand for helping to stabilize the hospital and guide it through the financial and operational challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Gary provided extraordinary leadership during a difficult time,” Powers said. “He calmly steered GLH on a course that made it possible for us to attract a very qualified CEO to guide us confidently into the future.”

Early in Studley’s career, he had completed a fellowship in health services administration at Gulfport Memorial Hospital, where Marchand was the longtime CEO.

“I find Mr. Studley to be a dedicated, experienced health care executive who will assure the ongoing success of GLH,” said Marchand, who will stay on at the Greenwood hospital for three to six months to help in the transition.

Studley’s hire drew compliments from other board members and physicians on the hospital’s staff.

“He has a proven track record and is definitely the person to get us where we need to go,” said Marcus Banks, Greenwood’s fire chief who serves as the board’s vice chairman.

Dr. John F. Lucas III, a vascular surgeon, said he anticipates that Studley will be skilled in “restoring the economic position of the hospital.”

Before the current fiscal year, the Greenwood hospital had suffered losses totaling more than $44 million from 2016 through 2019, although about $14.5 million of the loss was due to a change in accounting standards.

Through the first 11 months of the fiscal year that ended Wednesday, the hospital was showing a net loss of $755,000, a nearly 90% improvement from the year before. That substantial reduction in red ink, however, was enabled by some $15.5 million in COVID relief grants, mostly from the federal government.

All of Studley’s academic background has been in health administration. He has a bachelor’s degree in the field from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and a master’s degree from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. He is working on a doctorate from A.T. Still University in Kirksville.

His wife, Jennifer, grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They have two teenage children, Bryce and Samantha.

Emma Bell, who serves as secretary on the hospital board, said she was impressed by the couple.

“I gave Jason an  A-plus,” she said. “He was the best candidate, and his wife is a real plus. I am certain they will serve this community well.”

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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