Deb Lightner

‘Everyone has something to give’

-Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby Deb Lightner, of Lohrville, recently retired from the board of Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Lake City. “I never view community service as a chore,” she said.

LAKE CITY — Deb Lightner, of Lohrville, calls it her ah-ha moment. While she was well-acquainted with Stewart Memorial Community Hospital through her 12 years of service on the hospital board, it became personal when a good friend received care at SMCH.

“My friend received a survey from SMCH and was asked if there were any staff members she’d like to lift up for special recognition,” said Lightner, whose friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer. “My friend said she couldn’t single out any one person, because they were all wonderful.”

This experience highlighted the value of compassionate care close to home and reinforced Lightner’s commitment to SMCH, where she served on the board from 2005 to her retirement this spring.

“It’s wonderful to have access to high-quality healthcare in our community. Having SMCH here also does so many other good things for our area, from attracting medical and business professionals to providing good jobs. Our communities also benefit when people connected with SMCH fill leadership roles, from city councils to school boards.”

Lightner is a true servant leader, said Cynthia Carstens, president/chief executive officer of SMCH. “Deb has the skills, knowledge and heart to tackle challenges and make sure that needs are addressed. She adheres to the principles of listening, empathy, foresight, shared decision making, a willingness to challenge the status quo and building community.”

Carstens cited how Lightner recognized a need for a Meals on Wheels program for the Lohrville community.

“She worked with our organization to get that set up and delivered many of those meals herself until there no longer was a need.”

Five ways SMCH is raising the bar

This spirit of service is reflected throughout SMCH, a critical access hospital affiliated with UnityPoint Health. Lightner is proud that SMCH is raising the bar in five keys ways, including:

Culture change. SMCH worked with the Studer Group® to build a sustainable culture that promotes accountability, fosters innovation and consistently delivers a great patient experience. This culture helps attract top talent to SMCH, a non-profit organization that employs approximately 185 full-time staff in Lake City, Lake View, Rockwell City and Gowrie. “Other hospitals around Iowa are amazed at SMCH’s ability to recruit doctors and other medical professionals,” Lightner said.

Diverse leadership. Strong leadership is the key to any successful organization, said Lightner, who farms with her family near Lohrville. Along with the SMCH leadership team, the SMCH board includes people with a diverse array of skills. “The board has included farmers, educators, pastors, small-business owners, bank presidents and others who care about the community and the organization,” Lightner said. “Good board members also show a willingness to learn, ask questions and speak up.”

Inclusion. While Lightner encourages people to serve on the SMCH board, there are other ways to get involved. SMCH offers a hospital auxiliary group where members can volunteer at the SMCH gift shop, help with fundraising events and more.

Responsive solutions. Wellness and preventative healthcare are priorities at SMCH. “Many of SMCH’s Lunch Connection educational programs and other wellness programs are developed in response to issues the community cares about,” Lightner said.

Forward focus. As medical technology advances and outpatient services become much more prevalent, this presents complex, challenging issues for the hospital, said Lighter, who has a strong background in finance. “While we’re still one of the hospitals that delivers babies, the trend away from in-patient care means SMCH is looking at new ways to best serve our community and do it cost-effectively.”

Lightner remains a strong supporter of SMCH, even though her board term is completed.

“It has been an honor to work with Deb, who is one of the strongest women I know,” Carstens said.

Lightner is exploring volunteer opportunities with the Peace Corps.

“I never view community service as a chore. Everyone has something to give.”


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