Steve Edwards announces his retirement from CoxHealth after 30 years; cites cancer diagnosis

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards announced he will be retiring from Cox in 2022 after 30 years.

According to a press release, his last day will be May 31, 2022. Edwards shared in a letter to employees that in 2021, he found out he had cancer.

“In the past year, I discovered I had cancer. I was privileged to receive amazing care guided both by our team at CoxHealth and the Siteman Cancer Center. After successful surgery, I am recovering well and I feel strong. However, in this cancer journey I was blessed to gain perspective, which affirmed my decision to retire,” Edwards said.

“We have been deeply fortunate to have Steve serve CoxHealth’s patients and employees, and the community as a whole, especially through periods of great change,” says Rob Fulp, chairman of the CoxHealth Board of Directors. “He will be greatly missed, but we will forever be impacted by his dedication to do right by the community he cares about.”

Edwards began his time at CoxHealth in 1992 working various roles before being named president and CEO in 2012. His father, Charlie Edwards, also served as CEO of the health system.

The CoxHealth Board of Directors has created a search committee to choose Edwards’ replacement. The board will begin immediately with the goal of having the next top executive in place before Steve’s departure in May.

“We take the responsibility of finding the next leader very seriously,” says Fulp. “Our leaders have frequently been found from within our health system, and we know the quality of talent we have at CoxHealth. However, our priority is to find the best person for the job, whether they are currently at CoxHealth or not. We will search with intentionality and focus in that mission.”

Below is the full letter Edwards sent to CoxHealth employees Friday morning.

November 19, 2021

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Nearly every day, going on 30 years, I have worn a suit and tie to work at CoxHealth. May 31, 2022, however, will be different – I plan to don a T-shirt and shorts and work with our grounds crew. At the end of that day, I will retire as president and CEO. I started on the grounds crew and that is where I would like to finish my career.

Those who know me well should not be surprised by this news. In 1989, while completing graduate school, I made a detailed strategic plan for the rest of my life. The plan was filled with seemingly unattainable dreams of career and life. I dreamed of moving back to my home town, marrying the girl of my dreams, having a wonderful family, and eventually becoming CEO of CoxHealth. Although I couldn’t have imagined it at the time, my dreams have come true.

Among the goals and milestones, I planned to retire around age 55 and then later teach. Toward that end, I began planning and aggressively saving at 24 years old. I am now 56, and I feel my 20-something self was right: it is time. Recent personal factors reinforced this decision. This is a 24/7 job, and it can take a toll. I lost my father shortly after he retired. He had given everything he could to his family and this organization, sometimes neglecting his own wellbeing. I worry I may be facing a similar challenge.

In the past year, I discovered I had cancer. I was privileged to receive amazing care guided both by our team at CoxHealth and the Siteman Cancer Center. After successful surgery, I am recovering well and I feel strong. However, in this cancer journey I was blessed to gain perspective, which affirmed my decision to retire.

Immediately after retiring, I plan to spend most of my time with my family, who have stood by me even though the demands of the pandemic tried to pull me away from them. Beyond caring for them, I will spend much time cycling, backpacking, kayaking, fishing and generally being more carefree. While I am retiring, my work is not done. I plan to stay on at CoxHealth in a limited advisory capacity assisting leadership changes and helping teach and coach future leaders.

I have been honored to serve as CEO for 10 years, and I am grateful to be part of a team that has achieved so much. We have expanded across the region through new hospitals, facilities, and partnerships. We created Cox Medical Group, a 750-provider organization, and when complete, we will have added five new 30,000 square-foot super clinics. We have seen our employee base grow from 7,500 to 12,500, and we have been repeatedly recognized as a best employer by the Springfield Business Journal, Modern Healthcare and Forbes. I am especially grateful that through my tenure we have had no layoffs.

I am proud of our auxiliary who have been recognized as Auxiliary of the Year by the Missouri Hospital Association four times in the past ten years. We have been recognized by U.S. News as a best hospital, and by CMS as a 5-Star Medicare Advantage plan. We have materially strengthened our financial base, which better prepares us to withstand future storms. Most recently, we have battled a pandemic, coming together with a unity of purpose and serving with every ounce of our strength.

These are moments that I will never forget. However, I think it is rare that a CEO can be highly effective beyond 10 years. It’s easy to become rigid, recalcitrant and inadvertently thwart progress, which are things I never want to do. It has been my most important priority to develop our future leaders. Our team is loaded with talented people, tested and forged into amazing leaders through the pandemic. It is time to let them lead.

Our Board has established a search committee to find our next leader. I believe this person can be found from within, but that is a decision for our board to make. I have profound respect for our Board of Directors, and I have been honored to serve them. It has long been our advantage that our board members live locally and care deeply about our community. I am confident they will make the best choice for our future.

It has been the greatest honor of my life serving this organization, the people, and the community I love.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Steven D. Edwards

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