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VOL. 132 | NO. 124 | Thursday, June 22, 2017

Former St. Francis CEO Now Teaching at CBU

By Andy Meek

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Dave Archer has never followed a prearranged plan for his career. The former CEO of St. Francis Hospital has always taken the next step, whatever that next step is, on faith.

Which is how he approached moving on from St. Francis – the hospital he led from 1997 to 2016 – and ended up joining the health care MBA program at Christian Brothers University. He did what he’s always done, focusing on prayer and waiting to see just what it is he’d be called to do next.

“From the very start, I’ve always – even before health care – really tried to prayerfully discern what God wanted me to do,” said Archer, who left St. Francis in May 2016. “And that’s lasted throughout my career. I never had a plan to be a CEO for X number of years or anything like that.”

Indeed, that’s how he got into health care in the first place. While living in New York City helping “take care of street kids,” he got married and came to the conclusion that emergency care for street children probably wasn’t the most stable of employment decisions.

And besides, he wanted to also raise a family.

“I was looking for something I could do to continue helping people in need, but that was a little more stable,” he said. “Thirty years later, in kind of a similar situation, I was sitting in prayer. And what I heard was – I have something else for you to do, but until you leave what you’re doing, you won’t know what that is.”

What “that” turned out to be is his new job as an educator.

He’s now a full-time professor and recruiter at CBU, where he’s also been on the board for a few years. The university has offered a traditional MBA program since 1989, but it added the health care MBA program last year to meet the specific needs of working health care professionals in Memphis.

It uses instructors with real-world experience like Archer, as well as managers from other institutions like the World Health Organization, Delta Health Alliance, the Shelby County Health Department and more.

The university is currently taking applications for its next health care MBA cohort, which will begin in August.

Joslyn Hebda, CBU’s assistant director of graduate business programs, told The Daily News not long after the health care MBA program’s launch that it specifically targets health care professionals who are looking to acquire the skills and knowledge needed for upper management roles in the industry. The program was named one of the Top 20 Graduate Programs in Healthcare Management in the South in 2016 by Healthcare Management Degree Guide, an annual list released by the nonprofit ranking organization.

Archer felt he’d be uniquely suited to the task – a conclusion he came to after setting out on a pilgrimage in Europe that started in the south of France and extended across northern Spain until travelers come to the place where St. James is buried.

“It’s a route people having been walking from all over Europe since the ninth century,” Archer said. “We had walked the last section of that as a family some years ago, and I’d always wanted to walk the whole thing. So we set out in late August to do that.

“I thought, you know, after 500 miles God’s either going to hit me with a lightning bolt or just tell me exactly what it is he wants me to do. There were no lightning bolts, though. God sometimes speaks in different ways.”

The thing he kept noticing happen is that he kept running into business school professors along his route. Surely, he thought, it must be a sign.

Fast forward to today. At the moment, he’s teaching one night a week. Some of the things he thinks he brings to the program?

“The ability to help drive the program and hopefully improve its image in the community – certainly to make it more visible within the health care community,” he said.

And to sit down with health care professionals in the community and those leading the hospitals and other health organizations and say, “are we teaching the right things?”

“The main thing is, we’re really trying to create the best program for health care, for the development of health care executives,” Archer said. “That’s our focus and passion.”

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