January 13, 2023 – Those who work for Appalachian Regional Healthcare often use the words “family atmosphere” when talking about their workplace.
And for Roy and Jeri Lynn Milwee and Lyndsey and Sabra Howard, there is perhaps no better description.
“Well, the first member of our family was actually my mother-in-law,” Sabra clarifies.
It began, she says, with Susie Howard.
Susie started with what is now known as Harlan ARH Hospital in 1956, the same year the United Mine Workers of America dedicated the first of the Miners’ Memorial Association hospitals, all of which later formed ARH.
“She was the assistant director of nursing and worked from 1956 to 1996,” Sabra explains.
It was Susie, she says, who told her about an opening in the human resources department at Harlan in 1980.
Sabra was just 18 – not yet married to Susie’s son Glen – when the prospect of steady employment and benefits prompted her to apply.
She didn’t know it back then, of course, but 43 years later, ARH remains her first and only employer, as she moved from personnel assistant to human resources manager and to her latest role as regional human resources manager.
Sabra explains the corporate position she assumed in November. “I’ll work in Harlan and travel to (ARH facilities) Middlesboro, Barbourville and Mary Breckinridge to provide HR support.”
She says she’s honored to receive the recent promotion, and looks forward to the new experience.
“ARH has always been a wonderful place to work,” she says. “I’m very excited.”
Jeri Lynn Milwee found inspiration for her own career while watching her “Gran Gran” Susie and mother Sabra hard at work at Harlan ARH.
“I kind of grew up at Harlan,” she says. “And with both Gran and my mom working at ARH, I saw that it was a very family-friendly atmosphere and a good place to have a career.”
Jeri Lynn started that career first as an intern and then as a staff pharmacist for the Hazard ARH Community Pharmacy.
Like both her mother and her grandmother before her, she has worked her way up through the ARH system, working, on a local level, as the pharmacist in charge for the community pharmacy and then for the Hazard ARH Clinic Pharmacy.
In 2019, her duties expanded when she was named the systems coordinator for the ARH pharmacy clinical services and again in 2021 when she moved into the role of director of retail pharmacy operations for each ARH facility.
“I enjoy it,” she says of the position that requires her to travel to each ARH outpatient pharmacy, overseeing everything from software enhancements and workflow to patient care.
“I really like working with our entire team and helping them grow and develop.”
It was a desire to be closer to home – and to Jeri Lynn – that prompted Roy Milwee to seek employment at ARH.
“I was living in northern Kentucky, working for UPS in 2009 and I had this girlfriend who had graduated pharmacy school,” Roy explains, as his now wife, Jeri Lynn laughs. “I wanted to get closer to her and to home in Harlan and I wanted to get into healthcare.”
ARH, he explains, was, and continues to be, the dominant employer in the region and offered him the perfect opportunity as a community-based planner.
Again, like both Jeri Lynn and Sabra, Roy now works in a system-wide position as chief ambulatory officer for ARH.
“I oversee outpatient clinic practices,” he says, explaining he works with 90 sites and 320 providers throughout the system.”
It was Jeri Lynn who influenced sister-in-law Lyndsey Howard to choose a career in pharmacy.
“She graduated pharmacy school the year I started dating my husband (Jeri Lynn’s brother Brad Howard),” Lyndsey says, explaining she always knew her future lay somewhere in healthcare. “I was headed to college and trying to decide what I wanted to do and she just kind of talked to me about it.”
After the decision was made, the rest fell into place, as Lyndsey, who worked first in the ER and now in Harlan’s in-patient pharmacy, says she always knew where she would work.
“I definitely wanted to come back home,” she says.
It’s that feeling of “home,” all four say, that helps them know they’re in the right place.
“We’re very fortunate to have such an awesome community,” Sabra says. “It’s just a great place to be.”
Jeri Lynn adds, “Being able to live and work in the same place, taking care of your neighbors and family is important to me.”
“I know personally most of the people we see, so it really is like taking care of family and friends.”
That formula, Roy says, is what has helped make ARH successful.
“Working with ARH, you are truly serving a mission,” he says. “The people are what ultimately make the organization, and we have great people who work here and look out for each other.”
Susie Howard passed away in 2021, but her family says she was happy to see her legacy continue.
“She was proud of her family,” Sabra says. “She was proud just seeing everyone work so hard.”
Roy says he’s proud as well.
“I’m just thankful to all of them (family) for their dedication and support,” he says. “I’m very blessed to be part of this family and part of ARH.”
Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), is a not-for-profit health system operating 14 hospitals in Barbourville, Hazard, Harlan, Hyden, Martin, McDowell, Middlesboro, Paintsville, Prestonsburg, West Liberty, Whitesburg, and South Williamson in Kentucky and Beckley and Hinton in West Virginia, as well as multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, home medical equipment stores and retail pharmacies. ARH employs more than 6,500 people with an annual payroll and benefits of $330 million generated into our local economies. ARH also has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members. ARH is the largest provider of care and the single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third-largest private employer in southern West Virginia.