Nursing graduate, community clinic CEO helps shape the health and well-being of local communities
Judd Semingson took over as CEO of the community clinic on New Year’s Day 2020. The independent primary healthcare system operated 13 facilities and was suddenly scrambling to help patients amid the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. 19.
In addition to patients covering Benton and Washington counties, Semingson had 275 employees in the eye of the storm.
“Admittedly, when I went through the interview process in 2019, I didn’t include a global pandemic in my 100-day plan,” he said. “However, we don’t often have the opportunity to define our battles in advance.”
Those early months set the tone for Semingson’s leadership approach and united his team. They still carry those lessons.
“I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a great team. Our defining question was, and still is, how can we adapt to better help those we serve? We continue to have challenges ahead of us, but we have already gone through a period refining the fire and will adjust as needed,” he said.
Semingson, whose healthcare career spans nearly 25 years, is a U of A Eleanor Mann School of Nursing former student. He also holds a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in business administration with a major in health care administration from Western Governor’s University.
He started out in intensive care at Washington County hospitals, but spent most of his career at Advanced Orthopedic Specialists in Fayetteville. He started out as a nurse in the specialty clinic, but eventually moved into the administrative side as the practice grew. Semingson loved the healthcare industry and decided to go back to school a third time to earn an MBA.
He was introduced to the community clinic while accumulating clinical hours as an advanced practice nursing student. He never forgot his patients or the clinic’s mission, which resonated with him. He stayed connected and applied when the clinic’s associate medical director position became available. He held this position for a year when the CEO of the community clinic announced that she was retiring. After a national search, Semingson was selected.
When the community clinic was established in 1989, volunteer doctors saw patients once a month. This year, the Community Clinic is adding an 18th clinic in Centerton, has over 325 staff and has served approximately 42,000 patients thus far. The clinics provide comprehensive primary, dental, pediatric, behavioral and other health care. They even offer physiotherapy services. The organization’s goal is to make health care accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Some patients have insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, while others pay on a sliding scale. Semingson focuses on improving access to primary care, which is essential to overall health. It means reducing barriers. Many of the clinics are based at area schools for convenience. Employees also connect patients with other resources, such as food or transportation.
“Our patients come from all walks of life and walks of life. I love hearing their stories. Some are from around the corner and some are from all over the world,” Semingson said.
He said helping people and creating healthy communities are the most rewarding aspects of a leading community clinic. “Health is a very personal journey, and far too often people have a narrow and fragmented view of what healthcare means,” he said. “We have amazing team members who have a broad view of accessibility, value and service. I constantly hear about the services or relationships our teams have established to help a patient or family in the need. We are the only primary care organization with comprehensive dental operations as part of our system. This broad view of healthcare allows us not only to treat acute or chronic conditions, but also to connect and educating our patients/families on healthy behaviors This work goes towards the prevention of disease or complications of disease.
Semingson wants to continue to expand the clinic’s reach and services.
“Our first goal is to help our team members grow personally and professionally,” he said. “We review and revise operations across our organization to better serve our team. In return, we seek to expand the services provided across our organization. Northwest Arkansas is a region dynamic, diverse and growing, the community clinic has both the responsibility and the opportunity to shape the health and well-being of our communities.”
Several team members are former nurses from the University of Alberta, and the clinics often serve as training grounds for students. Public health majors also work with the team.
Even though he is the CEO, Semingson maintains his nursing skills. He does not want to give up working with patients.
“I initially paused direct patient care to focus my full attention on our organization’s COVID response. However, I will resume in the near future,” he said. “Being a clinician is an essential part of who I am. Being involved in direct care operations also helps me see the challenges or opportunities that our teams face.”
This story is the latest in a series featuring students, faculty and staff in the College of Education and Health Professions that illustrate the core of the college WE CARE Priorities. The college is helping solve complex education and health challenges in Arkansas and beyond through this new initiative. Visit COEHP’s online magazine, the Coworkerfor more news from the six units that make up the college.