Capital Ideas: Kira Carter
Kira Carter, the president and CEO of Sparrow Specialty Hospital
, is a boomerang: A person who leaves the area to try something new, but loves it so much they just have to return.
Carter grew up in southwest Lansing and graduated from Sexton High School
. Not wanting to follow her professor-father to Michigan State University
's campus, she went to school in Indiana and Missouri. After college, she worked in Detroit for six months, and then got a job with Sparrow in Lansing.
She's been heralded by national health care magazines as a leader, and the local business community named her one of the Top 10 Over the Next 10 in 2008. She also loves her community, tutors students, sits on the Lansing Symphony
board and was recently appointed to the Capital Region Community Foundation
Despite her national cache, sheís not leaving Lansing. Sheís happy right where she is.Capital Gains:
How are you engaging young people in the area to get involved in the health care industry?
From what Iíve seen and what Iíve been involved with, thereís a real effort to raise awareness and educate people at a much younger age. To really grab hold and get them to look at health care and the opportunities involved in health care.
When I think about growing up and wanting to get into the science field it was nurse, doctor, pharmacistóthose kind of traditional areas. But health care is a small, little microcosm of the community, and so if you enjoy finance, but you also have a love of health care, thereís accounting in health care. There are CPAs in health care.
Weíre really trying to broaden peopleís understanding of all the fields and talents it really takes to run a hospital. If you donít like the blood and guts, there still are other opportunities in health care.
We partner with several of the universitiesóMSU, Lansing Community College
(LCC)ó[and] looking regionally, Baker College
, Ferris State
. We have a number of students who actually come in and do externships.
Iíve been involved in outreach for two years. I think itís paid off tremendously. I can tell you that the dollars our hospital has had to spend on recruitment is minimal because of the number of students that have come through. Weíre able to identify [those] who are the best and brightest coming out of some of the classes, and in turn they go back and share their experience with their peers who may not have been stationed here.
Time and time again, when I look at my nurses, when I look at my repertory therapists, many of the ones I have working on the floor now came from a student experience here.CG:
Why did you return to Lansing?KC:
Iím a family-oriented person. My family is here. I was heavily involved in my church before I left and I missed those connections. I always thought that, if I had an opportunity to come back to Michigan in my field, that I would take the opportunity.
I actually landed an administrative fellowship in Detroit and was there about six months and ended up back in Lansing.
I knew I was going to come back to Michigan; I never dreamed Iíd actually be back in Lansing. Everything just seemed to line up. Iím very happy to be back.CG:
How has the city changed in the last 20 years?KC:
The growth of Sparrow as a health system has drastically changed. When I left for college, there were four hospitals: St. Lawrence, Lansing General, Ingham Regional and Sparrow. I remember coming back one spring break and learning there were two, and then driving down Michigan Avenue and just seeing the expansion and growth.
It has been a welcome addition for me to see growth in other industries outside of the auto industry. While there is still much work to be done, it is still a much different Lansing than what it was. CG:
What component of life in Lansing has declined since you left?KC:
I think Lansing has declined in its education. The reason that my parents chose to move to Lansing is that at the time they chose to move here, Lansing had a phenomenal education system. Both of my parents grew up going to private schools, so they said there goal was always to put their kids in public schools.
I run a tutoring program at my church, so education is something thatís very near and dear to me. I think classroom sizes are different and resources that teachers have are different. Kids are coming to school with a lot more problems.
When businesses look at investing money and infrastructure in a city they look at school systems, they look at health care and they look at the neighborhoods. Thatís an area we need to invest in if we want others to invest in our community.
I do appreciate some of the changes theyíve tried in bringing in magnet programs. I work with some children that have come out of that program and I can tell the difference. It is scary, but based on the needs of the children that I tutor, I can always tell which schools they go to. I really have seen more of a support network and focus learning coming out of some of the magnet programs. CG:
Was it hard moving back here after living in two larger citiesóDetroit and St. Louis?KC:
No, not really. Iím kind of simple. I like to have the big city to go shopping and to do things, but I really like a smaller city. I really appreciate being 10 minutes away from my job and not having so much of a hustle and bustle.
I had that for quite a few yearsóenough to say, "Been there, done that." I welcome the size of Lansing and the community.CG:
What can a city the size of Lansing/East Lansing do to attract young talent or keep existing young talent here?CK:
What I always see here, and Iíve sort of experienced it, is that if youíre new to the area, thereís not always an immediate outlet like church. Itís a great place to raise kids, itís close to a lot of things, itís safeóyou usually hear that from young professionals with kids.
When you look at the single professionals and "What will we do?" thereís very little limelight and activity Downtown.
While there are the arts here, Iím not sure we always do a great job promoting it. Iím a board member on the Lansing Symphony and I can tell you that, when I got to Symphony performances, there are not a lot of young people there. For some reason itís been kind of tailored into a nicheóthat itís only for this age group, or itís only for this demographic.
I think we have a lot to offer. There are a lot of great things at the Wharton Center.
I think itís that a lot of those things are at scheduled timesóthat you can put on your calendar. But thereís not the everyday hangout spots. I think thatís what some people are missing or lacking.CG:
Can you describe Lansing in three words?KC:
"Small town" comes to mind, but thatís only two.
I always tell people, when they think of Lansing they should think of the Tale of Two Cities because you have Lansing and East Lansing. Lansing is very much the automotive and manufacturing side, and East Lansing, you get into the academics and the arts side.
So, while Lansing is a small town, there is a mix.To receive Capital Gains free every week, click here.
Kira Carter is president and CEO of Sparrow Specialty Hospital.
Ivy Hughes is the Managing Editor of Capital Gains.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie