Photos by L.G. Patterson
Since moving to Columbia five months ago to become vice president and chief financial officer at Boone Health System, Laura Thomas hasn’t had much time for leisure reading. For an avid reader of mysteries and popular novels, that says a lot about how much time and energy it takes to learn the ins and outs of her corporate environment and her new community. She describes her career focus during this transition as being about relationships and performance. “Our team has moved through the forming, storming, norming and conforming phases quickly — the phases that you go through when you’re new to a workplace or when you have a new team,” she says.
Raised in west Texas, Thomas proudly holds onto the vestiges of a friendly Southern accent. She has a bit of a drawl, even when using the precise words that explain her new role: “In a sentence, my responsibility is to ensure we are fiscally responsible without compromising quality for the patient, while ensuring that our employees are safe, healthy and have a high morale. It’s a bit of a balancing act.”
Thomas comes to Columbia and the Boone Health System with 15 years of experience as a CFO, bolstered by a master’s degree in health administration from Ohio University and an undergraduate degree in accounting and information systems from the University of Texas Permian Basin. She is one of five females comprising Boone Health’s C-level executive team. “We actually outnumber the guys,” she says.
Still in her early 40s, she has assumed a workload that only an accomplished professional could be comfortable carrying. She ticks off her list of responsibilities matter-of-factually, as if there is nothing unusual about her wide range of duties. “I have supply chain operations reporting to me, support services, construction — anything relating to planning, development and building — environmental services, security, accounting, payroll and financial planning and analysis, plus our teams ensure that we are meeting or exceeding Joint Commission of Accreditation standards in respective areas.”
The pandemic has added another layer of complexity to her job. Supply chain issues require monthly global logistics meetings with her team. “It depends on the day whether we are going to get the supplies we need. We are working through sourcing and collaborating with our clinical leaders to see what we need to do to ensure patient care. But, we’ve been able to stay ahead of the curve,” she says.
This is the first college town that Thomas, her husband, 14-year-old son, two dogs and a cat have ever lived in. She also has a 19-year-old son who is in college in Texas, studying to become a nurse. With help from new friends and colleagues on staff at Boone, Thomas has already discovered a hot yoga studio and a gym, where she works out with a personal trainer. When she’s not at work or exercising, she’s with her family. Columbia is beginning to feel more like home as they explore the city and surrounding area. They especially enjoy hiking along the trails and exploring Devil’s Icebox. “I feel the colleges bring a kind of vibrancy that you might not see in other cities this size,” she says. “There’s always something to do.”
Which is something of an understatement, coming from someone whose goal is to cut down her work week to 45 hours from the current 50 hours per week that it takes. Except for finding time for her mystery books, Thomas is managing well. “Over the years, I’ve gotten more realistic about what I can accomplish in a day. I now have a top three for my accomplishment list each day. I’ve gotten older and wiser: I used to have 10,” she says.