Jeff Dossett isn't a doctor, nurse, lab technician or medical researcher. He didn't go to school for any health-related field.
But the 35-year-old Maryville resident considers that a plus in his new job as administrator of Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh.
"One of the biggest attributes that I have going for me is that I'm not a clinician," he said. "I lean on those around me who are subject-matter experts. I'm not afraid to ask questions. I'm not ashamed to say, 'I don't know what that is.'"
Dossett's career has focused on "performance improvement," helping companies become more efficient and less wasteful. Prominent on his resume is his certification as a Six Sigma Black Belt.
"That's not tae kwon do," he said this week, laughing. "That is really data analysis and process management. How do you go about improving processes? How do you analyze operational data to drive efficiencies?"
Memorial East is a 94-bed satellite of Memorial Hospital Belleville. Dossett came on board March 5, replacing Ruth Holmes, a nurse-turned-administrator who worked 41 years for Memorial before retiring in January.
The combined Memorial Regional Health Services recently became part of St. Louis-based BJC Healthcare. When replacing Holmes, Memorial leaders decided to tap talent already in the company, according to President Mark Turner.
Dossett formerly served as director of dialysis, imaging, radiation oncology and service excellence at BJC's Christian Hospital in north St. Louis County.
"He was just high energy, and he had a good background in what we're trying to accomplish here," Turner said, pointing to his oversight of dialysis and imaging and his role in last year's opening of a Siteman Cancer Center location at Christian. Siteman is coming to Memorial East in 2019.
"He also has a wonderful personality," Turner said.
Dossett grew up in Alton with three sisters, a steelworker father and mother who worked at a day care center. He was a track athlete and computer whiz who served as "technical editor" for his high school newspaper and even helped Alton School District with its network.
Dossett also held his share of part-time jobs, baling hay, clerking at a gas station and Farm Fresh dairy store and working as a dock hand at Alton Marina.
"Growing up, I knew that being successful in high school was an absolute must, no ifs, ands or buts," he said. "And I knew there was a desire by my parents for us to go to college."
Dossett spent a semester at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville before earning an associate's in computer networking at Rankin Technical College in St. Louis and landing an internship at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. He also worked weekends at the Anheuser-Busch bottling plant.
"I was on the computer path, but at that time, IT jobs weren't incredibly plentiful," he said.
Dossett started his career in earnest at Harrah's St. Louis casino in 2004, climbing the ladder from computer technician on the midnight shift to director of continuous improvement and operations.
"It was at a time when the economy was just starting to go south," he said. "We had to find ways to get efficient and do it quickly."
While at Harrah's for six years, Dossett earned a bachelor's in information management at Webster University. He also did some soul-searching on his long-term goals, wondering what he could do to make a positive impact on humanity.
Health care was his answer.
Dossett joined the BJC corporate staff as a business process consultant, another performance-improvement job, before going to Christian in 2012.
"I wanted to get closer to the patient, the people we were helping," he said. "I did not get the sense that I was really going to learn health care by sitting at a remote location working on IS (information systems)."
Dossett's beginning title at Christian was a mouthful: performance improvement and service line development engineer. The first week was rocky, as he was summoned for jury duty and got sick with the flu.
But it didn't take long for Jennifer Cordia, then chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care, to recognize his potential.
"I hate to use the 'diamond-in-the-rough' comparison, but he stood out early on," she said. "He had the passion and work ethic to become a great leader. He had this amazing dedication to health care, patients and the community that we were serving."
Cordia became something of a mentor to Dossett, who was promoted to director of imaging and gradually took on dialysis, radiation oncology and service excellence. She admired his open-door policy and genuine concern for co-workers, who often felt better about problems or challenges after a chat in his office.
Cordia, now senior director for clinical operations with Ascension Medical Group, expects Dossett to do well at Memorial East.
"I couldn't be more proud of him," she said. "I think he's someone who could change the way health care is delivered in the future."
Dossett lives in Maryville with his wife and former high school sweetheart, Michelle, who works in health care; and their two small children, son James and daughter Alice. They're expecting a baby in July.
Dossett likes to keep in shape by running, although he's been too busy to do much of it lately. He's also a die-hard college football fan who most closely follows Notre Dame.
He prefers hot tea over coffee to get him revved up for the day. His biggest weakness? Rock candy.
"Jeff has an extreme sweet tooth," Cordia said. "If there's a cupcake in the room, protect it. He's a huge dessert guy."