There were handshakes and hugs as CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System associates and community members said goodbye to Chris Karam, longtime president/CEO of the hospital, with a reception Thursday evening. His last day is Friday.
Karam will take another position in the CHRISTUS System as senior vice-president of group operations and president/CEO of CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Health System in Alexandria, La. He will have oversight of all the system's ministries in Louisiana and Southeast Texas including St. Frances Cabrini, CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System, CHRISTUS Southwestern Louisiana Health System and CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System.
"I've worked with Chris for 22 years and it's been an amazing experience," said Francine Francis, communication director for St. Michael. "Chris is known not only at St. Michael but in the community for his passion, compassion, vision and most people also know about his corny jokes. We're going to miss him but we're excited for his new ministry in Southeast Texas and Louisiana and we're looking forward to the next phase in our journey."
Karam's first job with the CHRISTUS system was at Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport, La., in 1986. He began his career in Texarkana in 1996 at CHRISTUS St. Michael Rehabilitation Hospital and worked his way to CEO in 2003 after serving as the hospital's vice president.
He has more than 35 years experience in health care, 32 of those with CHRISTUS.
Karam said there are several things he's proudest of accomplishing as the hospital's leader.
"I'm really proud of the team we have and the great work they do. We've received lots of national awards for care. It's not important for the awards themselves but they are validation we're doing a great job," he said. "Another thing I'm proud of is the different services we've helped provide the poor and underserved by working with different groups in the community. That goes with our faith-based tradition to make sure we're truly living out our mission to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.We've opened more medical homes for individuals to get care who otherwise might not be able to," he said.
Karam had no plans to leave Texarkana when his new position unexpectedly came open.
"We didn't see this coming. This position gives me the possibility to impact more people's lives. It felt like it was more of a calling than just a job opportunity," he said.
Karam said he and his wife Michelle will miss Texarkana.
"I cannot think of a better place to have spent the last 22 years than Texarkana U.S.A. It's a great place to raise a family. When you can say you wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else for 22 years, that's a statement of what a blessing this has been for me and my family," he said.
St. Michael Chief Operating Officer Jason Rounds will serve as interim CEO.