GIRARD — The lesson instilled by Ruth Duling’s parents, ”Work hard, be kind, trust in God and keep family close to your heart,” still stands strong today.
Girard Medical Center CEO Ruth Duling was recently recognized as a 2019 Woman of Distinction by the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce. She and 11 others have a short biography and their photograph in the Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 community calendar. People may find the calendar at the chamber office.  
Duling said she was “humbled” to have been chosen as a Woman of Distinction. She often looked over the names of the selected women each year, “it was a very impressive group I’m not entirely sure I measure up,” she said.
“It means a lot to me that I was nominated by my friends, my fellow employees at Girard Medical Center.  
“I’m also appreciative of the kind words that others shared in support of my nomination.  I always try to push myself to do the best I can in whatever I do and I’m probably my own worst critic, so to know that there are people out there who would take time from their busy schedules to bring recognition to what I do — that is just the nicest compliment anyone could ever pay me.”
As CEO, she is responsible for the hospital and the senior behavioral health service, swingbed and home health departments and five clinics which include four family practice clinics and a specialty clinic.
Duling has worked for the hospital for nearly 24 years. She was originally hired as an administrative assistant, then took a position as the patient financial services director until she became CEO in Sept. 2017.
“I feel like helping to maintain a great healthcare system in a rural community is a very rewarding career,” she said. “There are so many challenges and yet the benefits to the community are huge.  
“I feel fortunate to work alongside some wonderful healthcare providers who also know the importance of preserving healthcare in rural Kansas.”  
Before all of this, Duling received a Bachelor’s Degree from Pittsburg State University in Business Administration with an emphasis in Information Systems.  
“It was never a goal of mine to have a career in healthcare but sometimes you find yourself in circumstances that you never expect,” Duling said. “So, I didn’t specifically choose healthcare but I have found it to be a very rewarding and challenging field.”
Right out of college, she found jobs in data processing and computer information system. During that time, she and her husband and high school sweetheart, Dan, were working in the Kansas City area for nine years when he then accepted a position as an elementary school principal in Pittsburg.
“Since southeast Kansas was home to us, we decided to move our family back and I accepted a position at Girard Medical Center,” she said.
Duling said she is “very proud” of the services that Girard Medical Center provides.
“Patients come to us from many surrounding communities and we’re honored to be their healthcare provider,” she said. “The greatest example of this is the Behavioral Health service we provide to senior patients.  
“We are the only facility in the area to provide both inpatient and outpatient Senior Behavioral Health services. We continue to maintain our current services and look for new services to bring to Girard so we can keep healthcare in our community.”
Most recently, Duling said the hospital has added Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
“We have a caring, family atmosphere that I believe you can only find in a small community,” she said. “Patients feel welcome in our hospital and clinics and that makes us very proud.”
Duling said she is inspired by the people who deliver healthcare at the hospital.
“Whether it be the physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, lab professionals, radiology technicians or those people who work behind the scenes performing accounting functions, filing claims, preparing meals, maintaining the facility or cleaning and making patients comfortable — all these people share a responsibility to deliver quality healthcare and it really is a passion,” she said. “They, collectively, are inspiring to me.”
Duling and her husband volunteer at their church, St Michael’s Catholic Church in Girard as musicians and helping with “A meal in His name,” a free weekly meal sponsored by the church for all community members.
“Our faith life is very important to us and we want to give back when we can through our church family,” she said.
Her leadership includes serving on several boards in her community — including Girard Housing Authority, Girard Area Community Foundation, Learning Tree Institute at Greenbush and the Pittsburg State University Alumni Board.  She has also served on the Kansas Hospital Association committees and the Kansas Health Service Corporation Board.
“I have always felt that volunteering is the most beneficial to the one who gives of their time,” she said. “As one gives, so shall one receive. Volunteering is also a great opportunity to work alongside individuals you may have never otherwise become acquainted.
“Being helpful is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.  
“No matter how busy I am or how little I think I have to contribute, I always feel better knowing I’ve tried to lift someone else up by some music we’ve provided, a meal we’ve helped serve or some knowledge that I’ve imparted.”
Outside of work and volunteering, Duling said she likes to stay physically fit. She participates in a local fitness class and belongs to a the YMCA in Pittsburg. Duling also enjoys the occasional run, she said. She also spends time with her family at Crawford State Park.
Duling said she and her husband are proud of all three of their children who all are musicians. Their daughters, Meredith Reid and Natalie Hamilton teach vocal music in Fort Scott and Chanute, respectively.  Their son, John, works for Cerner Corporation in Kansas City and plays bass guitar with several blues groups in the Kansas City area.  
“We enjoy attending their music performances when we can and it makes us very proud to watch them do great things in their careers,” she said. “Family time is important to us which includes our daughter’s husbands, Jason Reid and Rob Hamilton.”
Motivating her to get out of bed every day is her husband, she said.
“We’ve enjoyed a 35 year marriage and Dan is responsible for a lot of my motivation,” Duling said. “He is my biggest fan and always supportive.  Both of our jobs are very challenging and there is never a dull moment.
“We like to work hard and we encourage each other.”
The hospital patients and employees also motivate her.  
“Like so many other occupations, the work is never done,” she said. “The hospital business is a little unique in that the business is never closed.
“When the weekend or a holiday rolls around, the hospital is still open.  When I’m not at work, I think about the patients at the hospital and our employees who are taking care of them.  That motivates me to get back to work to do my part.”
Duling’s family — her parents, grandparents, siblings and her husband’s family — helped shape who she is today.
“I feel so fortunate to remain very close to my brother and my two sisters and although our parents have passed on, I think about them every day and I know we all try to pattern our lives by our parents’ example,” she said. “If I enjoy any success in life, I think I would have to say it is due to the lessons first instilled by my parents — not the least of which were to work hard, be kind, trust in God and keep family close to your heart.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.