JOPLIN, Mo. — She’s the only female president and CEO among our region’s healthcare systems and she’s leading the largest employer in our area. We sit down with Freeman Health System’s Paula Baker and find out how she got to where she is today.

Paula Baker, Freeman Health System President & CEO, said, “It has been a whirlwind ride. One that I enjoy very, very much.”

For nearly a decade, Paula Baker has been the woman in charge.

“The life of a hospital CEO is definitely, constantly evolving. I have a schedule every morning when I come to work. But, it’s a very rare day that my day actually sticks to that established calendar.”

It’s an aspect of the profession she enjoys as she aims to help people on the best — and worst — days of their lives.

“I always knew I wanted to be in a profession where I could feel that I was doing something to help people.”

It began with a passion for behavioral health.

“Essentially, after I graduated from college, I went to work at Ozark Center. And, I began my career as an Executive Secretary, worked my way up at Ozark Center, which culminated in the CEO position there.”

Then, when she was chosen by the board of directors for her current position around 10 years ago, her vision for healthcare came to fruition.

“I’m utterly convinced that it is impossible to separate behavioral health from medical care. So, those two an an interwoven tapestry and they work together hand-in-hand.”

Now, leading roughly 5,000 employees, it’s that personal connection to her team that makes her grateful.

“I’m so incredibly proud of them. They are just an amazing group of individuals and, I see first hand their passion for their patients, their commitment to the mission of Freeman Health System.”

Because, she truly feels called to lead those around her.

“My personal belief is that God gives us the assignments he has for us, and I feel that God directed me to this position and it’s my assignment.”

She also balances her work life with her family life. Her 13-year-old son Austin is always interested in what his mom does each and every day.

“I love talking with him about the issues that are going on at the hospital and I’m always amazed by the ideas and the perspective that he brings. He’s given me some really good ideas.”

As the health system’s very own remarkable woman — she’s also proof gender doesn’t matter.

“You don’t have to give up your femininity, because you’re in a leadership position. I think that’s very, very important. There really is a lot to be said about a woman’s touch.”

Freeman Health System is sponsoring this year’s remarkable woman series, and, as a female leader in our community, Baker is privileged to help honor the remarkable women in our area.

“To be a Remarkable Woman, is a woman who brings great value to those around her, and who likes to make the world a better place by her presence.”