James Atkins is originally from Augusta, Ga., and it was in Georgia that he began his education and career in the medical field.
"My background is pharmacy. I earned a BS degree in pharmacy, went back and also earned a doctorate in pharmacy. Through this training I had the opportunity to work in hospitals supporting nurses and physicians in the use of an ever-increasing number of new and complicated medications.
“I am a people person and being in the healthcare field not only allowed me to be around people, but to be there in the patient’s most vulnerable time — when hospitalized. Working in hospitals allowed me to use my skills to educate patients and staff on important diseases and specifically how to use medications to treat and control diseases," he said.
"After more than 20 years practicing as a clinical pharmacist in hospitals, I went back to school and earned a master in business administration to help me be a better leader in the challenging healthcare times of today. Being a hospital administrator is a challenging job that keeps me on my toes and allows me to support my hospital colleagues to ensure we provide excellence in healthcare to the communities we serve together," explained Atkins.
Because he is an interim CEO, Atkins’ wife and three daughters are still in Georgia. His oldest attends the University of Georgia, and his high school senior was recently accepted into Georgia Tech, while his youngest is a high school freshman.
As an interim, Atkins explained he is being evaluated for the permanent position while the company continues to interview other candidates.
"As long as I'm here I'll be committed to helping improve the quality of patient care and the health of the community," he said.
Atkins also said since his arrival he has enjoyed his Delta experience and tried a Delta delicacy; crawfish.
"I have to say that I have enjoyed my time here immensely, I especially enjoy the people, who have been welcoming and kind. The food has been fantastic and I am enjoying learning about the great heritage of the Delta. I tried crawfish for the first time.
“We called them crawdads growing up and we would pick them up in the rivers and creeks. I had always played with them but had never eaten one," he said.
Atkins explained he believes there are great opportunities in Mississippi and the South to better healthcare and the obesity epidemic in particular.
"We have a problem with obesity in the South and obesity leads to a lot of complications in peoples' health. It’s the number one cause in diabetes and that’s preventable.
“Diabetes leads to other health problems. It’s the leading cause of blindness and causes people to lose lower extremities, which makes them immobile," Atkins explained.
"We are one of the most obese states and there's a lot that can be done about that.
We can work to improve the health of Mississippians and we could make healthcare better (by focusing on obesity prevention) and reduce orthopedic complications and cardiovascular diseases, which can really have a devastating effect on someone's quality of life," he added.
The hospital will soon begin renovations and Atkins said this is one of his current focuses in regards to bettering BMC.
"I will be focused on getting the eagerly awaited hospital renovations started. The facility improvements will update several areas of the hospital and make the environment more comfortable for our patients as well as more enjoyable for our staff and physicians.
“I also like to spend time rounding throughout the hospital regularly, visiting patients, visitors, staff and physicians thanking them for their work and looking for ways to make it easier for staff to provide excellent care," he said.
In regards to what improvements are necessary for BMC, Atkins said only two days after he started, the Joint Commission, an accreditation body that surveys hospitals across the nation and in other countries visited for a two-day survey.
"The survey is an intense review of all hospital operations, with a focus on quality healthcare and patient safety. The Joint Commissions reviews hospital’s compliance with more than 2,000 standards. I am proud of the fact that Bolivar Medical Center did extremely well and was noted by the surveyors for having implemented many of the published best practices in the hospital industry. This survey validated the high quality scores that this hospital has earned over the last few years," he explained.
Overall, Atkins is pleased with the hospital, looks forward to the future, and said, "I've been very surprised. There are a lot of great things happening at BMC. We are focusing on patient safety and quality of care. We are trying to make BMC the place people want to come."