Hope Center Chief Promotes Health Care Careers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – From a young age, Rhonte Davis had his eye on a career in business.

In his mid-teens, the native of Dallas was already getting involved and served as secretary and treasurer for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

However, it was the work in the health care sector that drove him, why he’s worked in health care for more than a decade, he says.

“In the health care field, every day you really do make a difference,” he said. “If you want to make a difference in individuals’ lives and people’s lives, this is a great industry to be a part of.”

Davis shared his experiences and insights with students during the Brain Gain Navigators webinar at the Hope Center for Cancer Care. The center’s executive director told students the impact one has in health care extends beyond the patients to their support system, including family and friends.

Making a difference in someone’s life to that measure makes for a rewarding career, even beyond financial rewards, he says.

For more than 20 years, the Hope Center has provided oncology and hematology services to patients at 835 Southwestern Run in Boardman and at 1745 Niles-Cortland Road NE, Suite 5 in Warren. The clinic employs 75 across both locations.

Each week, the Hope Center serves about 550 patients. More than half are cancer patients, Davis says. The clinic treats all manners of cancer, providing treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

It also has an in-house retail pharmacy so patients can go home for their therapy, he says.

“That’s unique from the standpoint of 30 years ago there were very few options, versus now a number of patients can actually get their care at their residence,” Davis says. “So the cancer environment is definitely evolving.”

Working with cancer patients at any level can be challenging, he told students, because you develop “a real connection” with them. The greatest challenge is when difficult news has to be shared with patients and their support system.

That connection ensures you remember the patients, he says.

Davis has worked in oncology and hematology in Ohio, Texas, Oregon and Washington. He still recalls the patients he worked with along the way.

“There’s always going to be patients that you remember for a variety of different reasons,” he says. “But that’s the rewarding aspect of our job. You’re part of a patient’s journey.”

As executive director, Davis’ day-to-day includes working with human resources, marketing, being a community liaison, reviewing finances, hiring, onboarding and training, as well as working with physician and community groups.

For students interested in exploring careers in health care, Davis advises them to begin by talking things over with their family doctors.

“That gives you the first step in being able to connect with someone that you have an existing relationship with,” he says.

From there, students can seek opportunities to volunteer at nonprofits and for-profit organizations. That exposure is important in refining career plans and seeing exactly what some of the organizations do every day, he says.

“Some of the best decisions that you can make is when you learn that you don’t want to do something,” Davis says.

Some organizations offer internships, although those opportunities might be limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hope Center’s internship program was halted last summer.

The plan was to expose participants to all areas of the clinic, including jobs on the clinical side, as well as the business side.

The Hope Center handles billing and insurance information work from its central business office in downtown Youngstown.

“There’s a variety of different opportunities within not just the Hope Center, but within the health care field,” Davis says. “Oftentimes, we work with students to give them the opportunity to gain experience. But also to continue their education.”

Recent trends show that as the workforce ages and nears retirement, there will likely be a shortage of health care professionals from the clinical side as well as administrative, according to Davis.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Herzing University in Wisconsin reports careers in health care are expected to increase 15% across the industry, adding some 2.4 million jobs between 2019 and 2029.

Nurse practitioner is the No. 1 such career, with an anticipated 52% increase, according to the data. Medical and health service managers are the fourth-most in-demand career path, with a 33% expected increase.

On the clinical side, entry-level work at the Hope Center begins with medical assistants, who can progress to registered nurse. The clinic encourages nurses to continue their training to advance to being a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.

There will always be a demand for nurses and clinical staff at the Hope Center, Davis says.

“We’re always looking for mergers and acquisitions and looking to be able to expand in the community,” he says. “There’s some exciting things in the works right now, actually, to be able to expand our services for our patients in the community.”

Receptionists and schedulers comprise entry-level administrative work, who can then advance to work in the insurance and billing department of the central business office of Hope Center, he said.

For those interested in pursuing administrative careers and becoming leaders, Davis advises continuous professional development, particularly with communication. As an executive director, he’s always needed to evolve his communication style to accommodate his workforce.

“Every audience is different,” he says. “I’ve strived to actually put myself in other individuals’ shoes so that I can be able to help them on their journey.”

Continuing education is important for clinical workers, too. For instance, a small percentage of patients at the Hope Center don’t speak English as a primary language. Federal laws and regulations require businesses to provide translation resources for those patients.

The Hope Center brings in interpreters to work on-site or virtually with patients, Davis says. This creates another opportunity for students since translation companies are on the rise, particularly with increased demand for telehealth.

Davis is learning Spanish himself, he said.

“Our patient demographics and patient populations are evolving and changing,” he says. “Being able to have that second language is important in the global community because you can serve multiple different patients.”

Pictured: Health care careers are rewarding beyond the financial, said Rhonte Davis.