Newton Medical Center laboratory supervisor of quality services Aaron Hurst is a problem solver at his core. It's something he found out early on in life — specifically in his high school chemistry class.

During said chemistry class, Hurst noted his teacher would present the class with unknowns and challenge students to figure out what they were. Ultimately, Hurst admitted that played a major part in him choosing to pursue a career in the health care field.

"That was something that really appealed to me. It was something that I really liked to solve. I liked to solve those problems and solve those puzzles," Hurst said. "It was that teacher who really put it to me that I needed to go do something with my life that helped individuals, so it's a personal thing as well as what I like to do. That teacher really made me go where I wanted to go."

For Hurst, his role at Newton Medical Center has evolved over the 28 years he has spent at the hospital, but he is still essentially trouble-shooting and solving any problems that may come up to make sure things in the lab run smoothly — all in order to best serve the patient.

While Hurst said it is the technicians doing most of the testing and running the equipment, he is there to oversee them and make sure everything is operating as it should and the tests are as accurate as possible. Additionally, he has a hand in choosing what equipment is added to the lab to help in the deductive process.

Most recently, that included the purchase of equipment to assist with molecular genetic testing, with most of those decisions being made based on the benefit to the hospital and the Newton community. For example, if there were a growing need for allergy-testing equipment, Hurst said he would look into such an acquisition.

"This is a community-based hospital and that's what we want to do is provide for our community," Hurst said, "and so that's part of my job as well."

Recently, Hurst was recognized at the Kansas Hospital Association's awards luncheon with the Kansas Health Care Worker of the Year award — an award that annually recognizes individuals who go above and beyond the call of duty towards the betterment of their hospital.

Despite all he has done to further the efficiency and effectiveness of the Newton Medical Center laboratory (maintaining high standards, offering innovative recommendations, etc.) in an effort to best serve the hospital's patients, Hurst was quick to deflect attention from the award.

Hurst noted he is not in this line of work for awards, but he took this honor as a compliment to the whole of the Newton Medical Center staff — from the staff who work under him adapting to the changes/improvements he pushes for to the leadership that has fostered a supportive atmosphere, allowing Hurst and fellow employees to push for progress.

"This isn't about me; this about all the guys who are still back here doing the job. This is about Newton Medical Center and how it portrays itself, and it's about our community," Hurst said. "I know my name's on that placard, but it's not really about me. It's about what Newton Medical Center has allowed me to accomplish."

One thing is for sure in Hurst's eyes — no matter what you do to serve or volunteer in your community, you have to have a passion for it. That, also, was instilled in Hurst from a young age (through his grandparents) and he strives to embody that.

Whether helping his co-workers — either on or off the clock — or serving on his own community's school board in Burrton, Hurst's passion for service is always present. Newton is a community that takes care of its own, and Hurst noted that passion has to be at the forefront when getting involved to help others.

"You have to speak from your heart," Hurst said, "and you have to demonstrate who you are and what you are."