Business Q & A

5 questions with Chuck Welch

Chuck Welch joined EagleMed, a Wichita-based air medical transport company, as national director of business development this month.

Joining EagleMed takes Welch, 42, back to his roots in the industry when he worked as a flight paramedic in Billings, Mont.

“The work that people do as flight members is some of the best work there is in the world,” Welch said. “We touch and save more lives every day than you can even imagine.”

Growing up one of 11 children, Welch always knew he’d one day work in the health care industry.

Whether it was pulling a sliver out of his sister’s foot or helping a friend who broke his leg while hunting, Welch liked helping people.

“As far back as I can remember … I was just fascinated with making people feel better,” he said.

Welch grew up in Malta, Mont., and graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., with a bachelor of science degree in cardiopulmonary science and respiratory care.

He served as a registered respiratory therapist and flight paramedic with Deaconess Medical Center in Billings before becoming a critical care specialist with Aventis Pharmaceuticals, also in Billings.

Welch then spent nine years as a senior sales representative for Guidant Corp., which became Boston Scientific, where he sold pacemakers and did training. In 2000, while at the company, he moved from Idaho to Wichita and has been based here since.

He then joined St. Jude Medical as a direct sales representative, before most recently becoming a territory business manager for Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he also did a lot of training.

Outside work, Welch loves spending time with his family. He and his wife, Robin, play basketball in competitive leagues around Wichita. They have three children, ages 20, 18 and 16. Welch loves spending time outdoors, skiing, hunting, hiking and biking. Welch and his wife also run triathlons.

Q. What attracted you to EagleMed?

A. From the time I left being a flight paramedic, I honestly missed the patient contact. It’s such good quality work. It’s something that can get you out of bed every day and feel good about what you do. … What we do here is completely patient centered. We’re still running a business … but we talk more about what’s good for the patient.

Q. What do you like about the job?

A. I do love sales. I love going out and meeting people and being a solution person for them. I might be talking to a hospital in northern Montana that just can’t afford to have their own program. We can come in with an airplane and a trained crew and do that for them — find a solution for them that they can’t do for themselves.

Q. What’s the market like?

A. With the changes in health care right now, there has never been more of a need. Flight programs in these rural areas and even in major metropolitan areas are folding up. … They struggle with running those programs efficiently, from the staffing to the billing. We have extremely high expectations of the kind of care we deliver. We have the highest expectations of our pilots, the safety programs we administer. … There’s a huge need right now.

Q. Are flight programs folding up because of the cost?

A. It is the change in health care, the cutbacks. Before you could go out and get a loan and … buy an aircraft and have some part-time paramedics and nurses. With the amount of money out there, it was OK if you didn’t do a good job with billing or you had a lot of excess equipment laying around. Nowadays with our country on a budget, you have to be really good at what you do, offer the top quality care but do it efficiently. In many places, they’re overwhelmed with just running the hospital.

Q. How important is air medical transport to rural communities, such as to western Kansas?

A. As a general rule in medicine, there’s a saying, ‘Time is tissue’ — whether it be a stroke or heart attack or somebody having a clogged artery or maybe trauma or the person may be losing blood, which is killing tissue. In all those situations, the saying holds true. The quicker you can get that patient to the appropriate care, the better they’re going to fare. When we can take an aircraft that flies at 290 miles an hour and get them on the plane in 20 minutes — 290 miles an hour from a Liberal, Kansas, or from Goodland to a major institution, that is going to save tissue, and it can save a person’s life and it often does. With a helicopter, we can go to the patient. We can land on the highway right next to the patient.