JACKSON, Miss. – Growing up in rural Belzoni, Dodie McElmurray saw firsthand the health disparities that continue to plague the Mississippi Delta: Chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Obesity and high incidence of stroke and heart disease. Poor diet and food insecurity linked to poverty.
She saw residents of Humphreys County struggle for access to care. Even today, just four local licensed physicians serve its 2,000 people.
A 1997 nursing graduate of Delta State University, McElmurray’s career as a front-line caregiver and corporate-level health care administrator in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana has circled back to her Delta roots. She began work this month as chief executive officer of the University of Mississippi Medical Center Grenada and its sister hospital, UMMC Holmes County in Lexington.
“We’ve wanted to get back to Mississippi. I want to make a difference in the communities where I grew up,” McElmurray said.
“I want to bring more cohesiveness to health care to better meet the needs of the community, and to make sure that we are positioned to meet not just current needs, but the health needs of the future,” she said.
“Dodie grew up in the Mississippi Delta, and her knowledge of the local communities gives me great confidence in her ability to move UMMC Grenada forward,” said Kevin Cook, chief executive officer of the UMMC Health System. “We have improved the system of care in Grenada over the last several years, and I am confident Dodie will successfully continue this work.”
McElmurray comes to the Medical Center after serving as chief operating officer at West Jefferson Medical Center, which serves New Orleans’ West Bank. But, she’s a familiar face to many in UMMC’s clinical world. During her time at West Jefferson, the hospital was named to Health Grades’ America’s 250 Best Hospitals.
After working post-college as a nurse in Indianola and Ruleville, she was named director of nursing at the Walter B. Crook Nursing Facility in Ruleville. In 2001, she joined Beverly Healthcare in Searcy, Arkansas, as director of nursing for a 200-bed long-term care facility. From there, she became a professional services consultant for Beverly Enterprises in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where she was responsible for the operations of five long-term care facilities within the region.
She came home to Mississippi and UMMC in 2003 as assistant director of nursing before taking on the responsibility of clinical director of neurosciences and orthopaedics. She continued to advance into leadership positions, ultimately serving as administrator of clinical support services from 2006-14.
She found the time to earn not one, but two additional degrees, her master of science in nursing and a master of business administration, from the University of Phoenix in 2004.
McElmurray left the Medical Center to help lead Greenwood Leflore Hospital as its chief operating officer. “It was an opportunity for me to get back to making a difference in the population that drew me to health care from my younger years,” she said.
During her four years in Greenwood, she oversaw the acquisition of a cancer center with volume growth of 100 percent. She also supervised the expansion of the hospital’s clinic operations through the acquisition of multiple practices.
As chief operating officer of West Jefferson Medical Center beginning in 2017, McElmurray was responsible for managing all operations, including inpatient and outpatient services, physician practices and clinical and ancillary services, for the 435-bed community hospital.
The West Bank “is a more urban population, but the health disparities are similar to what we’ve treated at UMMC and in Greenwood,” McElmurray said. She was attracted to West Jefferson for the opportunity to address a continuum of care and to improve the overall health care delivery system, she said.
She was thrilled when Cook contacted her about her current job.
“It gives me the best of both worlds,” McElmurray said. “I get to be closer to home, to get back to my UMMC family, and to hopefully make a difference in the overall health of the community.”
She and her husband, Chip, like to travel and cook. They’re settling into Grenada with their dog, Lucy. “We are very much outdoors people, and we are very social and enjoy spending time with friends and family,” McElmurray said.
She plans to immerse herself in the Grenada community through volunteer and leadership activities. That’s her norm; in Greenwood, she served on the Greenwood-Leflore Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Leflore County and Boys and Girls Club of Greenwood boards of directors.
While at UMMC’s Jackson campus, McElmurray served as president-elect of the Mississippi Healthcare Executives, on the board of the Greater Jackson Arts Council, on the Leadership Mississippi Advisory Council, and served on a number of nonprofit organization committees. She’s very active in the American College of Healthcare Executives, serving both as a regent and a fellow.
“I’m a very big believer in community involvement,” McElmurray said. “I’ve always been very active in the community, and I plan to do the same thing in both Grenada and Lexington.”
Above all, McElmurray is poised to carry out her passion: Bringing quality health care to the Grenada and Lexington communities.
“I’m committed to being a part of these communities and making them the best they can be, from a health care front and as a whole. The same goes for UMMC, because it’s my family,” McElmurray said. “That’s what I’m there for. I’d like to change the conversation and dynamics toward the future.”