New director wants to move health center to hospital

Posted on Apr 12 2019 - 5:01am by Madison Hyatt

The University of Mississippi health center has recently made a change in administration,  hiring Alex Langhart as the director of health services to replace Dr. Travis Yates after the latter stepped down from the position.

After holding the position since July 2013, Yates’s desire to return to medical care prompted his decision.

“My background is a physician’s background,” Yates said. “I’ve been doing patient care all my life. I had never been a director of anything. I made a promise to the administration that I could maintain our current level of care, and that was my whole focus — to maintain status quo. We were very successful with that.”

Former University Health Services Director Dr. Travis Yates acknowledges that many students struggle to afford visits to the health center, but says that the health center on campus is still the most affordable option. Photo by Christian Johnson.

Yates will continue to see patients at the center, but he will no longer have administrative responsibilities.

“When (Yates) asked if he could step down from the director role, he and I talked at length about all the changes in healthcare that are occurring in our country,” Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Leslie Banahan said. “We agreed that the health center needed a full-time administrator instead of someone who was trying to balance administration but also see patients.”

Following the announcement of Yates’s decision, Langhart, an alumnus of the university, was selected to fill the position.

“My family has been in health care ever since I was younger,” Langhart said. “Health care is just in my family. I knew I wanted to go into it, but I didn’t know if it would be the clinical side or the business side. After coming to Ole Miss, it turned out I liked the business side a little bit better.”

Langhart graduated in 2015 with a master’s degree in health services administration. Although this is the first time in six years that the health center will not be run by a practicing doctor, this type of administration is not uncommon. According to Langhart, many other universities follow this model.

“When physicians go to school, they go to school to be a doctor and to take care of patients,” Langhart said. “People like me take a different route and go with the administrative side so we can deal with the laws and regulations. That, I believe, any health care provider would tell you is a headache for them.”

Langhart began work as the director of clinic operations at the Greenwood Leflore Hospital after earning his master’s degree. Langhart commuted from Oxford to Greenwood daily. After four years in this position, Langhart was ready for a change.

“The position just fell in my lap,” Langhart said. “Even though I was going to Greenwood, I lived in Oxford. That was a three-hour round trip every day. That was rough on me and my wife. I saw (this position) was open, applied and got lucky enough to get through the interview process.”

Langhart’s administrative work will include running daily operations, budgeting, staffing and coordinating community outreach and student and employee affairs. He said he hopes to lead the health center toward accreditation, the highest stamp of approval by the Association of Accreditation of Ambulatory Healthcare.

“(The health center) is not accredited right now because the facility doesn’t meet those requirements,” Langhart said. “We’ve outgrown the space that we’re currently in.”

Because of limited space, Langhart hopes to move the health center to the South Oxford Center, the previous location of the Baptist Memorial Hospital on South Lamar Boulevard. The health center would be located in the old emergency room space. Although it is off campus, Langhart said he believes the location will better fit the university’s needs.

“This current building is very old, and I have eight exam rooms with five providers. That’s not ideal,” Langhart said. “I understand that it’s very nice to be able to walk and get care, but if we want to grow, if we want to get accredited, we have to be in a facility that’s going to allow for that. We need to cater to our entire population and not just a small portion of it.”  

According to Langhart, student and administrative input is necessary in the decision for the move. The proposed move wouldn’t take place for at least another year, but two surveys will soon be sent out to evaluate student and employee opinion.