As the president and CEO of Newton Medical Center, the only hospital in Harvey County, you could say Val Gleason is a little preoccupied with the well-being of the community.

Professionally, making sure county residents are taken care of — in multiple facets — is part of Gleason's job description. Being part of Newton and NMC since 2004, her involvement has blossomed into more than just her work at the hospital, which led to her recent recognition as one of the 2019 Newton Women of the Year.

First and foremost, Gleason takes charge in helping uphold the mission of NMC — to be responsive to each who depends on the hospital for care. Gleason attributed the hospital's current successes - including being named one of the top 100 rural/community hospitals in the U.S. - to those who have come before her. But she and the rest of the NMC employees work hard to uphold those high standards.

"The community wants to have outstanding staff and medical staff, and we do. The community expects to have modern facilities that are clean and well-maintained, and we do. The community deserves high-quality care delivery, and we deliver that. And the community needs us to be in service to all, and we are," Gleason said.

Going beyond that, Gleason noted her role as a hospital leader also requires her to make sure her employees are taken care of and their dedication to the community they serve is not taken for granted.

On top of that, as both a leader and a community resident, Gleason realizes the importance of local partnerships and collaboration. She spearheads efforts to build relationships and work closely with entities ranging from local first responders to schools to civic organizations like Newton Meals on Wheels.

"A significant part of my time and energy is invested outside of the Medical Center’s four walls addressing our community’s needs and fulfilling our vision — to improve health," Gleason said.

Entities Gleason is heavily involved with around Newton include being a board member at Asbury Park and the Newton Chamber of Commerce — volunteering with numerous community events like the Cookie Daze 5K, Taste of Newton, etc. — as well as representing the community on a larger scale through work with health care organizations like the Kansas Hospital Association, American Heart Association, and more.

Promoting a "hospital without walls," Gleason has also been heavily involved in serving the community through her professional role. Striving to provide the best healthy living opportunities for the community, Gleason has been behind efforts of the hospital to donate land to build the Newton YMCA, build a garden on the NMC campus to help food insecure families in Newton, to name a few.

"I was taught from an early age that life isn’t handed to anyone on a silver platter and that sometimes everyone needs a little help," Gleason said. "There was a time when I faced down some genuine heartbreak and sadness. During those days, my family and several dear friends helped me find my way out of it. I feel like I somehow honor them by paying it forward through hard work and service."

Under Gleason's watch — first as Vice President of Physician Services, then as President/CEO in 2016 — NMC continues to strive towards providing quality services for its patients in the best manner possible.

Not only has NMC been ranked one of the top 100 rural/community hospitals under Gleason, but this year it also became the first telehealth location for Shriners Hospitals in Kansas. Additionally, since Gleason has taken over as President/CEO, NMC has received national recognition for its joint replacement, maternity, osteoporosis, diabetes and respiratory programs — some (i.e. diabetes) in which Gleason has heavily invested her time.

While nominations highlighted the model she has set forth for others to follow, Gleason noted she looks up to the previous Women of the Year honorees, having attended and even been a nominating party in previous ceremonies. Touched and humbled to receive this recognition herself, she noted she will try to live up to that model moving forward.

"The prior honorees are truly remarkable leaders and community pillars. To think of standing among them is overwhelming," Gleason said. "I hope to uphold the privilege bestowed by those who nominated me and the selection committee, and I seek to honor the prior Women of the Year by my outward actions. The prior recipients definitely set high standards and their footsteps are big ones. I sincerely hope to follow these exemplars by serving Newton Medical Center and the good people of this community with my whole heart."

Recognition of all 2019 honorees will be held during a brunch ceremony beginning at 9 a.m. April 6 at the Meridian Center.