Sam Huenergardt is the CEO for AdventHealth’s Mid-America Region, which includes the Kansas locations AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, AdventHealth Lenexa, AdventHealth South Overland Park, AdventHealth Ottawa and a future campus in Lenexa City Center, in addition to the Wisconsin facility AdventHealth Durand.

Earlier this year, the AdventHealth Mid-America Region solidified its leadership strategy with Huenergardt being tapped to continue as regional CEO, and Michael Knecht and Dallas Purkeypile being named CEOs for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission and AdventHealth Ottawa, respectively.

Below is an interview with Huenergardt about AdventHealth’s presence in Mid-American communities, his biggest hurdles in the industry – particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic, and his advice to the next generation of leaders.

Q: What inspires you to get up every morning and serve at AdventHealth?

A:  We know that as health care providers, the moments we have with our patients might be “everyday” for us, but they are very poignant moments to individuals. In everything from births to deaths, injuries to illnesses and diagnoses to recoveries, we are responsible for much more than physical health. The fact that we really do get to make a meaningful difference in individuals’ lives because of how we treat the whole person – body, mind and spirit – is what sets AdventHealth apart. It inspires me each day to think of the impactful encounters that happen every minute in our hospitals and clinics.

Q: How has your faith shaped the way you view and lead in Seventh-day Adventist health care?

A:  My entire career has been with AdventHealth, and I have seen God lead different hospitals through extreme challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic included. I have seen him bless us in ways that can’t be explained, and it cements in my mind how much God cares for the work we’re doing here. In trying times, I’m reminded that while I might have the “CEO” title, it’s God who is really overseeing everything our organization does. He is my leader, and I encourage all my team members to look to God for direction and healing.

Click here to watch “Our Eyes Are on You,” Huenergardt’s devotional reflection on navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: In what ways is AdventHealth Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ inside and outside of its facilities’ walls in the Mid-America Region?

A:  I have always loved our mission statement for how well it expresses the work we do beyond traditional health care. The “ministry” is what happens alongside health care and allows us to show Jesus’ work in unexpected ways.

We have many initiatives in place for our patients, including our new Care 360  ̊ program, which connects patients with health care resources and services they may need for a successful recovery following a hospital stay. This includes scheduling follow-up appointments, ordering prescriptions, arranging transportation and scheduling meal deliveries. This is provided at no additional cost to our patients.

We also support many initiatives outside our walls. One that comes to mind is the Every Baby to 1 program we launched in partnership with other Kansas City health care organizations. Every Baby to 1 works to ensure that every infant survives and thrives during their first year of life. The program engages the faith community to develop education efforts and initiatives that address infant mortality. Nearly one in seven babies born in the state of Kansas are born at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, so we have a unique responsibility to ensure their families are educated on appropriate infant care. By engaging the faith community to organize the initiative, we also set families up for success with a network of support.

COVID-19 has given us many opportunities to show that we are about more than just physical health care. We launched a virtual visitation program when we could no longer have physical visitors, connecting our patients to family and friends. For our COVID-19 patients, some of whom were on ventilators and unable to communicate with their care teams, we asked their families to email photos from home that we printed and displayed around their rooms. We also committed that no patients would die alone, bringing in family or making sure one of our own team members was with the patients during their final moments.

Q: What challenges in health care have you and your administration team set out to tackle in the next few years?

A:  Prior to COVID-19, the health care challenges we wanted to tackle included improving mental health access, creating consumer engagement tools to make it easy to access health care services and connecting our health care delivery systems. These challenges are still priorities, and COVID-19 has even increased the need for mental health support and telehealth services. However, now we will also be focusing on helping our communities stay safe and recover from a pandemic. We have seen an increase in delayed emergency care and people putting off preventive screenings, and we fear that as a result we’ll see more long-term impacts from acute illness and injury while COVID-19 is still a concern. We want our communities to know that it is safe to visit the hospital and doctor’s office – and there may be serious consequences to delaying your health care.

Q: What has been your greatest leadership lesson and what advice would you pass on to the next generation of leaders?

A:  My greatest leadership lesson is that people care more about your authenticity than your strategy. Connections and good relationships are what people respond to and are what enable you to be an inspirational leader instead of just a good businessman or woman.

I learned this from a mentor of mine and we learn it through Jesus as well. He didn’t just heal, He got to know people and built relationships.