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If there ever was an example of someone climbing the ladder of success, Ed Hamilton would be it. He started with INTEGRIS, before it was even called INTEGRIS, on June 21, 1979. He was just 18 years old, working on the food line in the cafeteria at Baptist Medical Center.

Ed Hamilton Celebrates 40 Years with INTEGRIS

From Cafeteria to Corner Office, How He Moved Up the Chain of Command

Ed HamiltonIf there ever was an example of someone climbing the ladder of success, Ed Hamilton would be it.

He started with INTEGRIS, before it was even called INTEGRIS, on June 21, 1979. He was just 18 years old, working on the food line in the cafeteria at Baptist Medical Center.

He had no idea what started as a summer job to make some extra money for college, would turn into a lifelong career. “I like to say health care picked me,” says Hamilton. “I certainly didn’t go into this thinking it was going to be my profession.”

He and a team of mostly high school and college students made three meals a day for more than 500 patients, many of whom had special or restricted diets. It was hard work and a huge responsibility, but Hamilton was up for the challenge. He was quickly promoted to supervisor, then assistant manager of Patient Nutritional Services.

Hamilton received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1988. He would leave the cafeteria in 1991, when he was elevated to the position of education coordinator and performance consultant. “I trained supervisors, managers and directors within the hospital. It was called The Challenge of Leadership program. I taught them how to build effective teams, how to handle disciplinary situations and how to reward and recognize exceptional employees,” Hamilton says.

This is where he caught the attention of Stanley Hupfeld, who was the president and chief executive officer of INTEGRIS at the time. “One Sunday I was watching 60 Minutes when a story came on about a mentoring program in Washington D.C. called ‘Project 2000.’ The school district there was trying to significantly raise their high school graduation rate by the year 2000. To do that, they were enlisting the help of area business professionals to serve as mentors for their students. I was intrigued by this idea,” admits Hamilton. “What I didn’t know, is that Stan was watching the very same program and basically hand-selected me to help replicate that program here. Thus, the INTEGRIS Positive Directions mentoring program was born.”

The mission of the program is to provide positive role models for at-risk children, help build their self-esteem, encourage them to overcome negative behaviors, and improve their classroom participation and academic success. One mentor is assigned to one child for the entire school year. The mentor is asked to spend one hour per week with their student. In many cases, lasting relationships are formed as returning mentors continue to work with that same child for several years.

Hupfeld and Hamilton worked with the Oklahoma City Public School District and its Foundation to establish such partnerships between local schools and businesses through the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. “Our goal was to get businesses and schools back in touch with one another and the best way to do that was through mentorships,” Hamilton explains. “The program still exists today. In all, we have trained more than 1,000 mentors and tutors over the years to help enrich the lives of countless Oklahoma City school children.”

In 1996, Hamilton was promoted yet again, to community development associate with the INTEGRIS Business Health Institute. He earned a Master of Health Administration degree from Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center in 1997.

As part of the mentoring initiative that he helped create, INTEGRIS started an after school and summer program at Western Village Academy in 1998. With declining enrollment and test scores, the school was facing the possibility of closure. INTEGRIS officially took over operations of the school in 2000, making it one of the state’s first public charter schools and greatly improving its performance. The school was eventually renamed Stanley Hupfeld Academy.

“Ed Hamilton is one of those rare individuals who makes all around him want to be better employees, more thoughtful friends, or even more noble people,” states Stanley Hupfeld. “From his spot-on imitation of Little Richard for our employee road shows or his insightful analysis of the health care landscape in our long-range plans or him leading the way for mentoring young children in our school, Ed is the ultimate professional, always upbeat, self-effacing and positive. INTEGRIS was always a better place because of him.”

Hamilton became the director of strategy development in 1999, a position that would morph into system director in 2015 and is his current position today.

“With 40 years of experience under his belt, Ed has a tremendous understanding of INTEGRIS’ strategic positioning, including our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. He also has a superior grasp on the changing landscape in the industry and that combination makes Ed an invaluable asset to our leadership team,” says Mike Hatch, executive vice president and chief strategy and transformation officer at INTEGRIS.

Looking back over the past 40 years, Hamilton realizes INTEGRIS not only influenced his professional life, but his personal life as well. He met his wife, Ramona, in the cafeteria of Baptist Medical Center. “We met in 1981. She worked in surgery and I was still on the food line. In fact, we had our very first date in the hospital cafeteria,” Hamilton says with his signature smile. “We’ve been married for 33 years now, so I must have done something right.”

The couple has two adult children, Kamille Elizabeth and Edward Dominique. “INTEGRIS has been very good to me throughout the years. I basically grew up within these walls, raised my family here and have had a substantial career.”

Hamilton acknowledges life hasn’t always been easy. As an African American, he has faced a fair share of racial bias. As a result, he was instrumental in the implementation of the INTEGRIS Diversity program. “The way you beat racism is with excellence,” he claims. “You don’t need diversity for diversity sake. You need diversity for diversity of thought. Life isn’t one size fits all, we need diverse opinions and experiences to truly solve problems and find critical health care solutions.”

Hamilton, now 59, doesn’t take his success for granted, he appreciates each step along the way. “I suppose one could see me as a ladder climber,” reflects Hamilton. “I started at the bottom and I mean the very bottom. But I would say moving up the ranks has given me a different perspective than someone who joins mid-way up the ladder. You learn how to respect everyone. To me, a housekeeper is no different from a hospital president. Each plays a very important role in the success of this organization. It’s a way of thinking that’s applicable in life as well.”

Hamilton takes this knowledge to the classroom, both as instructor and student. He has been an adjunct professor teaching a health care marketing and strategy class at the University of Oklahoma since 2005. And he is just 24 class hours shy of earning his Ph.D.

While Hamilton has enjoyed many personal and professional accomplishments like becoming a board-certified fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives in 2006, the highest designation a leader can receive in the health care industry, he says he is most proud of his community service. “I take great pride in our ‘returnship’ or the way we give back to the community. That’s the real reason I’ve stayed with INTEGRIS for so many years. The impact we’ve made in community health and development, that’s my higher purpose.”