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Tuesday, September 02, 2014, 12:25 a.m.
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Steve Rose

Conway Regional CFO first Arkansan to head national group

By Tammy Keith

This article was originally published August 4, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. Updated August 2, 2013 at 2:40 p.m.

Steve Rose, chief financial officer of the Conway Regional Health System, started his career with a large CPA firm, but he transitioned to hospital finance soon after his wife had their first daughter. Rose started in August 1990 at Conway Regional and said its facilities and services have grown with the city.

Steve Rose of Greenbrier will haul hog hats, Toad Suck Daze T-shirts and Conway Regional Health System items with him to give out to members of the national Healthcare Financial Management Association at a board retreat that begins today in Little Rock.

“I’m an Arkansan — there’s no doubt about it. I tell everybody when I can,” he said.

Rose, chief financial officer of the Conway Regional Health System, is the first Arkansan to chair the national group.

“I’m humbled, but proud, to be the first Arkansan,” he said, sitting at a small conference table in Conway Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Lambert’s office.

Rose, as national chair, got to plan the retreat and pick the place. Although he said there may have been “more glamorous options,” he said he wanted to show his home state to the group of 20-somethings who will attend the retreat.

Everyone except Rose will fly into Little Rock, so he planned activities there.

They’ll stay in the Capital Hotel, take a bus tour of the city and have dinner one night in a Quapaw Quarter home.

The group will be doing team-building and talking about the future of health care finance.

But in his opening remarks, Rose will talk about Arkansas.

“I’m going to look up some interesting facts, like the diamond mine and Riceland Foods,” he said.

Rose, 50, grew up in Walnut Ridge with one sister, Dina Rose Hufstedler.

It was, in his memory, almost an idyllic childhood.

“You could ride your bike anywhere, and there was no fear — I could ride to swimming lessons, to play baseball or to play pinball,” he said.

“I think like growing up in any small town, you get to know everybody,” he said.

“Mom was my high school counselor, so I didn’t get to get into trouble, or she would know about it,” he said.

His mother, Joyce Rose, and his sister still live in Walnut Ridge.

Before he was a numbers cruncher, Rose played sports in school — basketball and football, and was even named Outstanding Lineman his senior year.

Because it was such a small school, he said Walnut Ridge didn’t have a baseball team, so he played in the summers.

He also played trombone in the school band for six years, swapping his band uniform for pads and a helmet for Friday-night football games.

Rose was an excellent student and won the English award in high school, but someone else got the math award.

“My mom was a counselor but had a math background; Dad was a business major at ASU. The combination is kind of what led me into the accounting field,” he said.

His dad, the late Gary Rose, ran the family business for years, Rose Implement Co., the farm-equipment dealership Steve’s great-grandfather started.

Steve Rose figured he’d work there someday — and it was a satisfying thought.

When the farming industry went south in the early to mid-’80s, the family sold the business.

Rose went to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and is an Indian-turned-Red Wolf fan. (He explained the two boxes of hog hats by shrugging and saying, “Outside Arkansas, the hog is still more well-known.”)

It was when he was attending Arkansas State University that he and his future wife, Tracy, started dating. He’d known her since childhood because she lived in Hoxie, a stone’s throw from Walnut Ridge.

Rose majored in accounting and got a job at a big CPA firm in Little Rock when he graduated.

“I enjoyed working with the numbers, and it seemed to come naturally,” he said.

He was assigned to audit two rural hospitals about six months after he started his job.

When the CPA partner asked, “How do you like it?” Rose said he told him, “I kind of like it.”

Rose was permanently assigned to health care clients.

“That gave me the exposure and experience in health care,” he said.

He and his wife were living in Little Rock when their first daughter, Heather, was born.

“She was born with five heart defects,” he said.

She was 6 months old when she had her first surgery, then had two open-heart surgeries, one when she was 4, then one at age 6.

After 4 1/2 years of Rose working for the CPA firm and traveling, family tugged at his heart.

He got a job with a small hospital in Decatur, Texas, in the top administrative financial position, and after 11 months, he got a call about a finance-officer job at Conway Regional Hospital, as it was called then.

Because he’d done the hospital’s audits, the hospital administrator at the time, Bill Langford, knew Rose and interviewed him.

Rose started in his job at the hospital in August 1990 — 23 years ago this month.

He tried to attend all his daughters’ school activities, even if it meant working nights and weekends to catch up.

Heather attends the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and the Roses have another daughter, Lauren, 20, who attends Harding University in Searcy.

Rose coached Lauren’s softball team when she was growing up. She made the news when she scored the winning run in Greenbrier’s state championship game in 2010, perhaps taking after her dear dad.

Living in Greenbrier wasn’t the original plan, Rose said.

When they lived in Texas, he and his wife could only make one trip to Conway to look for a house, and they couldn’t find anything to rent that they liked that also fit their budget. The University of Central Arkansas was in full swing, he said, and Tokusen had just opened the plant in Conway, so housing was in demand.

The couple went back to Texas and trusted their mothers to find a home for them.

This was before the days of texting a photo by phone, or the prevalence of email, Rose said.

Rose’s mother and his mother-in-law, Angela Hendrix of Hoxie, toured homes and found one in Greenbrier.

“When we pulled in with our U-haul to the house in Greenbrier, that was the first time we’d seen it,” he said.

The Roses liked it and rented other homes before building one in 2002 in a subdivision on Horseshoe Mountain, which is between Greenbrier and Wooster.

He has seen Faulkner County grow and, along with it, the medical center.

As chief financial officer, his job is to oversee all financial operations, but he plays a bigger role. As part of the executive leadership team, he helps form the health system’s vision for the future.

How does he see it in 10 years?

“I said, ‘I’ll help with the vision — I’m not necessarily a visionary,’” he said, laughing.

“It has become and will become more challenging for independent small-to-medium-sized hospitals to remain independent,” he said.

“We’re looking at our role going forward. Our mindset is to remain independent.”

Health care reform is huge. His opinion?

“Overall, the regulations we have to adhere to are challenging to keep up with,” Rose said.

“The intent is good; how we’re going about it, maybe not so much,” he said. “The intent of ensuring that individuals have appropriate coverage — I think we can all say that’s a noble goal. I applaud the intent, but with any massive legislation, there are parts we don’t like about it.”

The theme he picked for his year as chair of the national organization is Whatever It Takes.

“Being in a relatively small hospital, I wear several different hats, and really, just as a way to serve, I want to do whatever it takes,” he said.

One example Rose gives is that he picks up trash if he sees it in the hospital hallway, and one of his biggest pet peeves is to see another employee walk past it.

“It’s incumbent on me and everyone else to keep a clean and tidy-looking hospital,” he said.

“It’s not in my job description, but we’ve all got to do whatever it takes to be successful at providing the highest level of service to our communities and those that we serve,” he said.

Rose said the strengths he brings to his job are dedication, No. 1, evidenced by his long tenure at Conway Regional, and empathy.

“I try to see things from all sides. I consider all aspects. On the downside, it may take me longer to make decisions,” he said.

Right now, he has to decide when he’s going to pass out all those hog hats.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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