President and CEO: Paula Baker

Choose an opportunity that evokes your passion.

By Kathleen Swift


As president and CEO of Freeman Health System, Paula Baker explains, “I am responsible for the overall programmatic and financial operation of the Health System, which consists of Freeman West, Freeman East, Freeman Neosho and Ozark Center. I provide vision and direction for the 460-bed health system, which is the largest employer in the community. Prior to being named president and CEO in October of 2011, I served as the chief clinical officer for Freeman. I also previously served as the chief executive officer of Ozark Center, Freeman’s behavioral health division. These roles prepared me for my current responsibilities. I am the first female president and CEO in Freeman Health System’s history.”

SMTO: What advice would you give someone starting in business?

Baker: Choose an opportunity that evokes your passion. You will need to invest a lot of resources, energy and commitment into the business, so make sure it is something you love and believe in. Understand the needs of your potential customers/consumers as well as the resources available in your market for these same goods or services. One must also consider the sustainability of the business and both its short-term and long-term value and relevance.

SMTO: What does it take to be successful in business?

Baker: You must have patience and perseverance to work through the rough times and frustrating situations. You must have a well-thought out vision for your business and a strategic plan for its success. It is imperative that you understand and learn to manage the financial considerations of your business. Hire the most qualified and talented individuals possible and mentor and encourage them as they grow in their positions.

SMTO: What does an average day look like for you?

Baker: In my position, there really is no such thing as an average day. Each day, I begin with a calendar of events and meetings. Rarely, does my day follow that schedule. One of the most exciting features of my position is that it is very action oriented. The unexpected emerges almost every day. One thing I do try to do daily is visit with patients in the hospital. I love to stop by patient rooms and talk with them and their family members. It is a daily reminder of how important our mission is and how much we are needed in this community. We appreciate the opportunity to impact people in their most vulnerable moments, and this is a responsibility we take very seriously.

SMTO: How do you keep in touch with the community?

Baker: I am fortunate to receive a great deal of feedback from residents on what services they would like to see added or expanded. We carefully monitor the health conditions of residents in our area so we can tailor services to meet these needs. Annually, we conduct a Consumer Needs Assessment to identify opportunities for growth or development.

SMTO: How do you make time for family and friends?

Baker: It is always a challenge to stretch the hours in my day, but I strive to prioritize time for my family and friends. Many people ask me how I am able to serve in my role and still have a young son at home. My answer is, I don’t know how I would do this job without my son. He keeps me grounded, and when I am home, he and my husband, Gene, are my top priorities. My husband is my best friend and serves as an amazing sounding board and advisor to me.