WK’s James K. Elrod issues statement on retirement

As Willis-Knighton Health System approaches its 100th anniversary of service in our community and I approach my 57th, it is humbling to recognize that I have been privileged to lead the health system for more than half of that time. Serving these years with so many excellent doctors, nurses and support staff has been an honor because we have a shared vision and mission of improving the health and well-being of the people we serve. 

In my youth I felt I might become a minister of the gospel, and although I prayed for guidance and listened, I never felt that calling from God. What I ultimately realized is that God led me here to Shreveport in 1965 for a reason. That reason was to lead this health system and support the citizens of this region as the second administrator in the hospital’s history.

I have served with the Willis-Knighton Board of Trustees for all of these decades, and have been grateful for their dedication, belief in our community, and the wholehearted support they have given to me, not just professionally but personally. When I signed my last contract several years ago, I indicated it would be my last. To assure a smooth transition, we all believe it is now time to announce Willis-Knighton’s third leader, Jaf Fielder.

Working with Jaf during the past 30 years of his career here, I have not just seen him grow and demonstrate his capabilities, I have seen his heart.  His dedication to the health system, the medical staff, the employees and our community is unquestionable and, I believe, unshakable. He will have the support of a strong executive team, just as I have had, and a solid foundation on which to grow.

I look forward to working closely with Jaf, giving him an even greater depth of understanding of my duties. I consider this a privilege, a duty and a responsibility that I willingly assume. I am honored to be asked to serve on the board of trustees and to be named president emeritus of the health system.

While I will step away from the chief leadership position at Willis-Knighton September 30, 2021, I have pledged to continue to offer support in any additional ways the board and leadership consider to be appropriate. However, my wife and I are both looking forward to opportunities for travel, reading and relaxing, spending quality time with friends and family and each other, and especially enjoying time away that won’t be interrupted with health system calls and emails.  

The inspirational Bishop T.D. Jakes has said: “Be willing to transition at every stage of your life. If your heart is open and you have an open mind, the blessing will flow.”  

I ask our Willis-Knighton family and friends to remember that we did not achieve our position of prominence in healthcare and in this community because of one person’s efforts. We built on the dedication and sacrifices of legions of people who went before us. We willingly transitioned year after year, even in the face of this horrible global pandemic. We kept our hearts open to the needs of our community and, in doing so, we allowed the blessing to flow.  

Finally, I look to this wisdom of John F. Kennedy who noted: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”  

I am confident that the future at Willis-Knighton is bright and that our skilled physicians and employees will continue to bring the blessings of good health to people throughout our region. 

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