MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The chief executive officer of Springhill Medical Center and its affiliated companies has been there since the beginning in 1975. Now, nearly 40 years later, Celia Wallace has seen her health care organization, Southern Medical Health Systems, grow to 2,000 employees and several facilities. Wallace recently shared about the challenges of her industry, continuing after a huge personal loss, and when she first realized she had a future in medicine.
A LOVE FOR SCIENCE
"I think we all recognize what our talents are. Like any student in high school, you know where you excel; mine were all the sciences. So it was something that I felt, oh, curiosity would be that thing took me in to the sciences. And it was really a calling that I think that you just intuitively know, hey I'll do better at this," said Wallace.
Her curiosity for the sciences has taken her a long way from her early days in Brighton, Alabama, just outside Birmingham.
A technology day her senior year in high school introduced Wallace to her future profession.
"I went and spent the day at the University Hospital in Birmingham. It was a whirlwind of activity, a beautiful way of giving you a good idea of what you would be doing if you chose that as a career. In those days, you really needed to think carefully about how you were going to earn your living in four years. What it did was it painted a picture for me. That is how I was introduced to x-ray technology," Wallace remembered.
LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCES
She said another day she will never forget happened during her freshman year. Wallace called it an earthshaking event.
"You can have this superficial world out here, and it's not all about me, and one of the best feelings in the whole wide world that any person can have is when they help someone else. That caring feeling, it is an enriching of the soul as far as I'm concerned," said Wallace.
Four Black teen girls were killed in the racially motivated terrorist bombing at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, and more than 20 people were injured. Although she was just an inexperienced health technology student, Wallace was called on to help care for them at the hospital that Sunday morning in September 1963.
Wallace knew after that tragic incident, she had made the right decision to pursue a medical career.
"I think you can talk to anyone in health care, medicine's a fascinating subject," added Wallace.
After graduation, Wallace came to Mobile to work as an X-ray technician. While at what was then named Doctor's Hospital in midtown near Mobile Infirmary, she was introduced to her future husband Dr. Gerald Wallace.
FOUNDING SPRINGHILL HOSPITAL
A few years later after marriage, they founded Springhill Hospital in 1975. Together, they built their dream until his untimely death in 1985.
"It is one that we never plan for (his death.) We plan for a long life. You're not expecting it. You're still at that invincible age, so it's the recognition that you're not as invincible as you thought," shared Wallace.
"We had together a lifelong dream, so for me the pattern was there, the creation had started. These past 27 years, with the framework of that original creation and where we were going to go and what we were going to do, having a firm plan in my head has made it a lot easier than if we had had never had conversations. I can't imagine doing this had we not been a team together before hand. It's like just being able to carry out each other's thoughts and know what we should do. So that plan has kept me on the straight and narrow," said Wallace.
With her focus on quality care Wallace believes that outside sources are her biggest challenge.
"I have to say government. We get so many mandates on a regular basis. I find them to be a major road block in giving good health care. They do have lots of good things, so I can't say they're all bad, but when I see us getting many changes that the government requires, it doesn't leave a whole lot of time nor does it leave a whole lot of money for research and we know we can be better," added Wallace.
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