Healthcare Leader: James Jackson, MD, Family Health Centers, Inc.

Jackson, James_James Jackson, MD

Chief Medical Officer at Family Health Centers, Inc.

Education: MD from University of South Alabama; B.S. in biology from Rhodes College

Hobbies:  Working around the house, going to estate sales and exercising.


What was your first job in healthcare?  What did you take away from that job that you use today? 

When I was in college, I had a summer job mopping floors and holding retractors in the surgery department of a community hospital. It was fascinating to watch how the surgeons handled the intense pressure of operating on another human being. Some had short tempers and treated the staff badly in the heat of the moment. Others managed to treat the nursing staff with respect and courtesy in spite of the often extreme pressure. Whenever I am tempted to lose my temper or treat a coworker disrespectfully during a stressful moment, I remember those surgeons and what it felt like to work in that environment.

How do you approach management and leadership in your organization? 

I try to be as collaborative as possible. The people that I supervise are all professionals and we share the same goals. That makes my job a lot easier.

What is your very best skill — the thing that sets you apart from others? 

For a leader to be effective, (s)he needs to be seen as having legitimacy by the people that (s)he  supervises. I have spent more than 22 years providing direct patient care at Family Health Centers and I continue to see patients every week. Because we regularly face the same challenges, I hope the medical staff sees me as a colleague as well as a leader.

What was the most significant event/development at Family Health Centers in 2015?

We opened a new site earlier this year with expanded capacity. Because of the Affordable Care Act, a huge percentage of our patients gained health insurance for the first time. Expanding services and meeting the needs of more patients has been very stressful but also very exciting for us.

If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry’s problems overnight, which would it be? 

I believe we have a moral responsibility to make basic healthcare available to every member of society and, frankly, the United States has failed miserably at this. The Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, but because of political realities, it is also extremely complex. A single payer system that covers all of us would be a good start.

How do you revitalize yourself? 

I know it sounds corny, but I really enjoy spending time with my wife.


As a leader, we all face many challenges. What challenges do you face in your role that are unique because you work in healthcare? 

The biggest challenge is the constant strain that our medical staff endures to provide quality care to patients with complex problems given extremely limited time and resources. It’s that way every day for every member of our medical staff.

What opportunities do you see for your company in 2016?  Challenges?

The mission of Family Health Centers is to provide access to care for everybody, regardless of their ability to pay. When Governor Beshear expanded Medicaid, it provided a huge boost to our ability to meet that challenge. Now, of course, Kentucky just elected a governor who has talked about throwing all that away. I’m hopeful that once Mr. Bevin has a chance to take a closer look at what expanded Medicaid means for the health of Kentucky’s citizens, he will do the right thing. In any case, 2016 definitely looks like it will be a real challenge.

What’s one piece of advice you remember most clearly? 

My father was a wonderful man who practiced medicine in a small town. When I was contemplating what career to pursue, he told me that unlike most careers, the practice of medicine would never be boring. “Every day will be different,” he told me. He had a real talent for understatement.