UM alumni keep health care local in Superior
(UM News Service) Working every day with your best friend would be a dream come true for some people. Getting to work with your best friend to provide a vital service to your hometown community would make it even more special.
For University of Montana alums Stacy Conrow-Ververis and Laurel Chambers that dream is a reality.
The lifelong best friends are the CFO and CEO, respectively, of Mineral Community Hospital in Superior, where they were born and raised. The hospital is the main provider of health care in Mineral County and offers a 24-hour emergency room for rural residents. The next closest option is about an hour away in Missoula, so the duo knows how important their hospital is to the community.
“It’s our parents, it’s our friends’ parents, it’s our family,” Chambers said of the patients they serve. “If you had to run your parents to the ER in Missoula, that would be terrible.”
Considering they both agree that getting to work side by side is a rewarding part of their job, it’s not so surprising, then, that they both decided to attend UM for college.
Chambers studied athletic training with plans to pursue a career in physical therapy. Conrow-Ververis earned her degree in elementary education while commuting from Superior each day. Even as busy full-time students, the friends still made time to catch up.
“We knew each other’s schedules, so we always had our time to meet up,” said Chambers.
After graduating, Chambers decided to continue her education at Rocky Mountain College and become a physician’s assistant. Within a few years, she and Conrow-Ververis were back living and working in their hometown.
A human resources position opened up at the hospital, and Chambers encouraged her friend to apply. Conrow-Ververis was working at the town’s school at the time and wasn't sure about working in a health care environment.
“I would have seen a job in a hospital and thought ‘that’s not me,’” she explains.
But she followed her friend’s advice and applied anyway. She got the job, to Chamber’s delight.
After several years in their roles at the hospital, leadership changes led them to take on the CEO and CFO positions. They knew the hospital needed to find someone who was willing to live long-term in Superior. After months spent searching, they realized they may be the best options to lead the hospital.
“It kept going on and we kept thinking of people and it didn’t work out,” said Chambers. “Ultimately I did it because we could do it with each other.”
Together they helped the hospital through the COVID-19 pandemic, partnering with the health department to provide vaccinations. They were able to use CARES Act funding to make much-needed improvements to the hospital’s facilities and equipment. Today the hospital is a Level IV Trauma Receiving Facility, which means it can provide life-saving stabilization for trauma patients and also treat heart attacks and strokes along with everyday care for the people of Mineral County.
“UM’s College of Health prepares our graduates to succeed throughout their careers,” said Reed Humphrey, dean of the College of Health. “Delivering quality health care in rural areas requires an understanding of rural life, and it is inspiring to see graduates like Stacy and Laurel return home to provide critical leadership at Mineral Community Hospital.”
The hospital provides a livelihood for a large portion of the county. With close to 90 employees, it’s now the county’s largest employer. Besides providing jobs for specialists and trained nurses and doctors, the hospital has opportunities for entry-level employment and training for students.
“We get to help people grow and mentor them in their jobs,” Chambers said. “We hire a lot of people who this is their first real job with benefits. And it’s fun to watch people grow.”
“Our hospital employees are our family, and we’re very tight-knit and we take care of each other,” added Conrow-Ververis.
Both feel that the work they do for the hospital is a way to give back to the place they grew up. And the support they get from the Mineral County community makes it all worthwhile.
“I have nothing but positives to say about coming back to your hometown,” said Chambers.