Outlook 2020: Edmond hospital executive strives to work with community to meet future needs
EDMOND — Positive community impact is a beautiful thing.
Avilla Williams, president of Integris Health Edmond, hopes to leave that behind as her legacy.
The operation that opened in 2011 that she oversees continues to grow on the community’s east side.
Williams, 61, joined other community members about a year ago to celebrate the opening of Integris Health Edmond’s Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery, a 65,000-square-foot residential treatment facility on the hospital’s 44-acre campus.
Williams said Integris opted to participate in the project a few years ago after learning from center advocates that Oklahoma needed an in-state residential treatment facility to handle addiction issues.
Integris agreed to donate needed land for the center at its Edmond campus and contributed $10 million toward the project once those advocates raised another $31 million.
“We worked with the community, identified a need and worked together to find a way to address it,” Williams said. “With the struggles we have in our state associated with addiction, we feel like we are poised very much to help through providing quality treatment on our campus.”
A healthy plan
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Williams joined Integris in 2008 after it announced its Edmond hospital plans. Before that, she had worked at Norman Regional and then Deaconess Hospital, where by 2004 she was a vice president overseeing its Bethany and branch operations.
Her health care career dates to the late 1970s when she obtained a practical nursing license before marrying the love of her life and traveling the globe with him as he served in the U.S. Air Force.
Along the way, she kept returning to school, first to get a two-year registered nursing degree and then a bachelor’s degree in nursing science in the mid-1980s so she could move into health care management.
She obtained a master’s degree in health care management in 1995 from Southern Nazarene University.
An aunt who had been a nurse, she explained, inspired her to enter the field.
“She thought it was a great opportunity for me. That is how I got here.”
In a man’s world
Williams is a health care management trendsetter, given that the vast majority of her colleagues when she entered the field were men primarily concerned with running the business and leaving health care to its employees.
But Williams wasn’t intimidated, she explained.
“I grew up in a very strong household of men (she was a middle child who had three older brothers and three younger ones).
“My mother literally did not see the difference between girls and boys. And so she raised me just like she raised her boys, to be a decision maker who holds firm to his convictions — not necessarily an attractive attribute for women at the time.
“But I think it just made me a better person, to be able to stand up and speak for what I believe.”
She also credits her experience working as a psychiatric nurse to her successful career.
Communications and intuitive skills needed for that type of work are most helpful, she explained.
“That translates very well when working in leadership. I have to be able to converse with people and understand them.”
Beyond boardroom walls
Integris already had announced its plan to build its Edmond campus when it approached Williams to ask her to consider leading the project.
But while Williams had lived in Edmond since 1994, she always had worked outside of the city and felt like she needed to get to know the community better.
“The community’s motto is ‘A Great Place to Grow,’ and I wanted to see how we could support those endeavors.”
As construction got started, Williams learned about the community’s expectations for the hospital from an advisory committee she had assembled that included elected, civic and business leaders.
“That was a really impactful time for me because I learned a lot … got to understand what the city needed and how they felt like we would fit into their plans and how they would fit into ours.
“It has grown into a very nice cohesive relationship that meets the health needs of both people in Edmond and in surrounding communities.”
Integris Edmond opened its $94 million, 40-bed operation with an associated doctor’s office building in 2011.
Since then, Integris Edmond has built an additional medical office building on its campus and now is building another $90 million expansion to its hospital that will add 64 beds, more space for supportive care and hopefully a meaningful impact that will last decades into the future.
“We have always tried to look out into the future to see what is coming and try to get ahead of that,” Williams said. “I hope the greatest impact comes from incorporating the wants, desires and needs of the community into our facilities’ designs and strategic direction.”
The Integris workforce is 75% female. There are three female hospital presidents across the system in the area: Williams; Teresa Gray, at Integris Canadian Valley Hospital; and Kelley Brewer, at Lakeside Women's Hospital.