As FACHE (Fellow of the American College of Hospital Executives) of Vibra Hospital San Diego, Yameeka Jones ’01 is on the move.
Jone says, “[My greatest accomplishment] is becoming a CEO. When you work hard and have the right people in place to get there, it becomes attainable. I didn’t want to be a CEO at first because of my confidence issues when I first started out in my career. It was a process to get there.”
The first goal of Jones’ life was becoming a Tigerette. Jones was immersed in Auburn culture since she was a child. Three of her cousins, Fred Baxter, Randy Hart and Terry Jones attended the university as football players.
“I was 9 or 10 years old then, and we would go to games. I always wanted to go [to Auburn] because we were like a family,” Jones says.
When she attended Auburn, she took part of her dream organization: The Auburn Tigerettes. “I would always see the girls walking around in their suits and I was like ‘Oh I want to be one of them when I go to Auburn!’ I loved football, my dad raised me to be a football fan and I loved it.”
For the majority of her college career, Jones participated in The Tigerette and Tiger Hosts organization and enjoyed going to sporting events like basketball with her friends.
“My life was really around Tigerettes. My best friend was a Tigerette, that was our life.”
When Jones was not hosting games for the university, she focused on her major in psychology and minor in business. Passionate about healthcare, Jones graduated from Auburn to pursue a dual master’s degree in health administration and business administration from University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB).
“I would have majored in that in undergrad, but no one told me!” Jones remarks. Regardless, she was on a mission; part of her residency was working for a community hospital for a year.
She stayed on after the residency to work as an assistant administrator, under a female CEO mentor, Vicki Briggs.
“I think that’s probably one of the most pivotal parts of my career, having someone also being female and being a CEO as my mentor early on,” Jones says. “At the time when I first started, I really never aspired to be CEO of a hospital. I thought it was a lot of responsibility and stress. I didn’t know where my career would end up, but I wanted to get every experience possible.”
From there, Jones went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for four years where she had the opportunity to work with a female associate hospital director, Wendy Leutgens.
“I was fortunate to have strong, female leaders that really helped me early on in a male-dominated industry. There are more female administrators now, but when you are right out of graduate school and you need to build your confidence it was great to see another female that you could really relate to and get advice from; that are strong, stand up and very intelligent,” Jones says.
Within Vanderbilt’s Medical Center she started out as a project manager and became administrative director over multiple departments and filled out project work with the Vanderbilt adult hospital.
“When you’re a young executive in the career, sometimes it takes a while to really be able to move up the ladder,” Jones explains.
Feeling she had peaked at Vanderbilt and desiring a challenge, Jones started to search for other options. She was introduced to the long-term acute care (LTAC) type of hospitals. In this system, patients are referred to specialty hospitals for long term care. Patients typically are moved from general hospitals to LTAC facilities to continue care, at times for 20 day stays. Jones had the opportunity to train at a COO program at Nashville Select Hospital. There, with seven years of experience under her belt, she trained with a CEO at a select hospital, learning how every department and the inner operations of how hospitals run in a smaller setting.
“I trained to be a CEO. It was a less intimidating transition because you are training for the first year. You have the opportunity to grow,” Jones says.
After she learned at the program, she was assigned to test her knowledge as an interim CEO in hospitals at Dallas, Texas and Augusta, Ga., both for 3 months each in 2012.
“Both teams at both hospitals were awesome. It was a great experience,” Jones says.
In 2013 Jones landed her first permanent position as CEO in Atlanta with Select Medical. Although she enjoyed the market there, she wanted to be closer to her significant other and looked to find a position in San Diego, Cal. There, her partner had already found work and started up their life there.
“Talking to mentors and others in my life, they told me not to have regrets. And for a while I didn’t have a life outside of work. To really have that balance made me look at that opportunity,” Jones says.
LTAC Vibra Hospital in San Diego reached out to Jones through LinkedIn to offer the position of CEO. Jones took the position and has been CEO since March 2015.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” Jones says.
Vibra is the largest hospital that Jones has ever worked. Compared to the 50-bed hospital she was used to, Jones’ new position oversaw a hospital with 110 beds and 6 ICU beds.
As CEO, Jones runs every aspect of the hospital from the business side from management, regulation and production.
“No two days are the same!” she says.
After a long day of work from around 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., Jones manages to get home in the evening, only to turn around to leave for community events and meetings in the community. If there are no community meetings or events, Jones goes on an evening walk to clear her mind and keep up health. Her hobby is working out and exercising. “I try to enjoy the little things,” she says.
Recently, Jones was initiated in the graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (a historically black sorority) in 2016, which allowed her the opportunity to give back to the community through different channels. She is also an active member of the San Diego Auburn Club.
“It’s good to have a network of people around you to support you. It helps you find the balance so you won’t feel the stress of work.”
After serving 12 years, Jones wants to continue following her career wherever it takes her. “I’m never going to be in a point where I will stop learning,” she says.