Willis-Knighton Health System announced on Saturday that James K. Elrod, President and Chief Executive Officer, will retire effective September 30, 2021. The Board of Directors has unanimously elected Jerry A. Fielder II (Jaf) to succeed Elrod as President and Chief Executive Officer.
With a tenure of over 30 years, Fielder is currently a senior member of Willis-Knighton’s Executive Leadership Team.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, medical staff, management team and over 7,000 employees of Willis-Knighton, we would like to thank Mr. Elrod for his unparalleled contributions and indelible influence during his more than five decades at the helm of this organization,” said Frank Hughes, MD, Chairman of the Board, “Under his leadership, Mr. Elrod has grown Willis-Knighton from a small community hospital into one of the largest healthcare systems in Louisiana. We are fortunate that he will become President Emeritus and remain on the Board of Trustees to ensure a seamless change of guard. “
Elrod led the expansion of the original 60-bed hospital into a fully integrated care network consisting of four acute care hospitals and a rehabilitation institute, an extensive network of doctors with multiple specialties, and the largest senior citizen residence in the state, The Oaks of Louisiana.
Some of the many innovations at Willis-Knighton during Elrod’s tenure include organ transplants, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, cutting edge eye surgery technology, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Willis-Knighton was the first in the state to offer proton therapy for cancer treatment.
Elrod has been recognized by numerous organizations for his continued dedication and dedication to the community, which resulted in a local newspaper naming him one of the most influential people in northern Louisiana of the last century.
Elrod earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Baylor University. After completing his military engagement with the United States Air Force, he attended Washington University School of Medicine, where he earned a master’s degree in hospital administration. He began his career with Willis-Knighton at age 27 and is the longest-serving hospital administrator in the United States, having served 56 years.
“Working with Jaf over the past 30 years of his career here has not only seen him grow and demonstrate his skills, but also his heart. His commitment to the health system, medical staff, employees, and our community is undeniable and, in my opinion, unwavering. He will have the backing of a strong leadership team just like I had and they have a solid foundation to build on, ”said Jim Elrod. “I look to this wisdom from John F. Kennedy who observed, ‘Change is the law of life. And if you only look into the past or the present, you are sure to miss the future. ‘”
The selection of Mr. Fielder takes place after a succession planning process over several years under the direction of the Board of Trustees.
“After a thorough search and selection of top candidates, the board came to the conclusion that there is no one better qualified than our own Jaf Fielder,” said Dr. Hughes. “During the interview process, it became clear that doctors and staff alike see Jaf as a trusted colleague and committed leader within the Willis Knighton healthcare system. With Mr. Fielder’s extensive healthcare experience, strong track record and commitment to operational excellence, we are confident that he is the right choice to carry on our proud legacy of healthcare in Northern Louisiana. “
Fielder joined Willis Knighton in 1990 and built his career under the direction and supervision of Elrod. He has held several senior positions across the company, from Human Resources, to Administrator of Willis Knighton’s flagship hospital, and finally to Chief Operating Officer with management oversight of all Willis Knighton hospitals. During his tenure, he was instrumental in expanding the Willis-Knighton Health System. Most recently, Fielder took on critical leadership positions in coordination with the health team and frontline workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fielder holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration from Abilene Christian University. Mr. Fielder also holds a BS in accounting from Louisiana State University at Shreveport. Shreveport-born Mr. Fielder is married to his 30-year-old wife Shelly and has three daughters, Jordan, 23, Jenna, 21 and Jamie, 19.
Statement by James K. Elrod on the pension decision
As the Willis Knighton Health System approaches its 100th anniversary of service in our ward, and I approach my 57th anniversary, working with so many excellent doctors, nurses and support staff in these years has been an honor because we share a vision and mission that To improve the health and wellbeing of the people we serve.
In my youth I felt I could become a minister of the gospel, and although I prayed and listened for guidance, I never felt that calling from God. Ultimately, I realized that God brought me here to Shreveport in 1965 for a reason. That was the reason to lead this health system and as the second administrator in the history of the hospital to support the citizens of this region.
I have served on the Willis Knighton Board of Trustees for all these decades, and I am grateful for their dedication, faith in our community, and the sincere support they have given me not just professionally but personally. When I signed my last contract a few years ago, I indicated that it would be my last. To ensure a smooth transition, we all believe that now is the time to announce Willis-Knighton’s third leader, Jaf Fielder.
I’ve worked here with Jaf for the last 30 years of his career and not only have he grown and demonstrated his skills, but I’ve seen his heart as well. His commitment to the health system, medical staff, employees, and our community is undeniable and, in my opinion, unwavering. Like me, he is supported by a strong management team and given a solid foundation on which to grow.
I look forward to working closely with Jaf to give him an even deeper understanding of my tasks. I see this as a privilege, duty and responsibility that I am happy to accept. I am honored to be admitted to the Board of Trustees and appointed President Emeritus of the Health System.
Although I will be stepping down from the senior leadership position at Willis-Knight on September 30, 2021, I have pledged to continue offering support in whatever manner the board of directors and leadership deem appropriate. However, my wife and I both look forward to opportunities to travel, read and relax, spend time with friends and family and together, and most importantly, enjoy the time that is not interrupted by healthcare calls and emails.
Inspirational Bishop TD Jakes taught: “Be ready to change at every stage of your life. When your heart is open and you have an open mind, the blessings will flow. ”
I ask our family and friends at Willis-Knighton to remember that it was not because of the efforts of one person that we achieved our excellence in health care and this community. We have built on the dedication and sacrifice of legions of people who have gone before us. We have willingly made a transition year after year, even in the face of this terrible global pandemic. We kept our hearts open to the needs of our community while we let the blessings flow.
Finally, I look to this wisdom from John F. Kennedy who observed, “Change is the law of life. And if you only look into the past or the present, you will definitely miss the future. ”
I am confident that the future is bright at Willis-Knighton and that our skilled doctors and staff will continue to bring blessings of health to the people of our area.
– James K. Elrod