Anderson University College of Health Professions
Dr. Selynto Anderson: Passion for healthy communities
In 2021, Dr. Selynto Anderson became Self Regional’s first vice president of community health & health equity and chief diversity and inclusion officer.
He’s dedicated to ensuring that citizens in seven counties have access to all of the healthcare resources they need. He’s grateful to Anderson University for providing him with a strong professional foundation in education and healthcare rooted in biblical principles. Dr. Donald Peace, dean of the College of Health Professions says Dr. Anderson “is a shooting star who has a promising career ahead of him.”
Tell me what your role is at Self Regional Hospital.
I am the vice president of community health & health equity and chief diversity and inclusion officer, which is the first for our organization on both levels. We’ve got a very concerted effort on community health and DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) here within our seven-county service area (Greenwood, Laurens, Edgefield, Abbeville, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda counties).
How long have you been at Self Regional?
This is actually my second job out of college. I came here in 2006 and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve had a variety of different roles, but I’ve been here for about 16 years.
What degrees have you earned?
I got my Kinesiology and Exercise Science in my undergrad and then I got my master’s in education from Anderson University in 2008. I then obtained my doctorate in public health with a specialization in community health, promotion and education.
What led you to Anderson University?
I’m originally from McCormick, South Carolina, about 50 miles away from Anderson. I wanted to go somewhere where I could see my professor and my professor would know my name. That kind of environment was really important to me. At the same time I was playing basketball and fortunately I was good enough to obtain a basketball scholarship for Anderson and was offered the scholarship. I visited and I fell in love with the school and fell in love with the community. The atmosphere just seemed right. I knew if I didn’t understand something I could go up to that professor and say, “Hey, can I chat with you about how to do this macroeconomics?” or something along those lines, so that was really key for me. As I looked back on that experience, it was indeed the right experience for me.
The relationships I made at Anderson just mean so much to me. My closest friends even to this day came from Anderson. We’ve got a group chat where we’re texting every single day. I also met my wife at Anderson. We weren’t dating at the time but she’s a graduate of Anderson as well.
What initially drew you into the healthcare field?
Here’s the thing: I would tell my mom all the time, “I want to do something where I’m moving around and I’m being active, but I don’t want to wear a suit and tie every day.” Sixteen years later, here I am wearing a suit and tie to work every single day!
I grew up in a community in McCormick where it was underserved. There weren’t a lot of resources. I always wanted to help individuals who I felt I could relate to and who were less fortunate and didn’t have a lot of things growing up. I was one of those individuals, but at the same time, I wanted to be able to give back. Once I got into healthcare I knew it was the right field for me.
Ideally, graduating from school, I wanted to be a physical therapist. That didn’t really work out. I was fortunate enough to get into healthcare and kind of see things from the managerial, administrative side—just the lives you can impact, the people you can touch.
I don’t think there’s anything greater than helping someone achieve their fullest potential, whether it’s, “Hey let me talk to you about why it’s important that you obtain a PCP (primary care physician)” or, “Hey let me help you get health insurance” or, “Let me be a listening ear when you’re dealing with death and grief within the hospital.”
It’s a joy to be in healthcare. You look at positions such as mine at the executive level where it’s community-based, it’s diversity, equity, and inclusion-based as well and I feel like I get a chance to do what I do best every single day to inspire people and just help individuals be the best version of themselves. I know we all don’t know where our careers may take us, but I kind of see myself having my hands around healthcare for the remainder of my career. It’s something I thoroughly enjoy.
What do you feel are areas of greatest need in your job?
I have been in this field in some form or another probably north of 10 years. Of course the changes that have gone on in the world with healthcare systems now that focus within health equity and the DEI perspective and there’s so much research that has been conducted. The industry has learned that if you become a resource for your community and if you implement certain things, then these individuals are going to be healthy and it’s going to raise the health equity for everyone.
One of the things I’m tasked for in the organization is to develop DEI/health equity strategies. So, how do we drive that strategy home to our patients, our team members and our community?
I’m so grateful I work for an organization at Self Regional Healthcare that really backs that up and really means that. We’re really fortunate to have our CEO, Dr. Matt Logan, who really places an emphasis on health equity and DEI. Now, especially in 2022, if healthcare systems aren’t working on these two things, they’re failing, because you have to be proactive in this work and doing a lot of things. So how do you educate your clinicians and your team members about cultural competency? How do you allow for data to drive the work that you do when it comes to health disparities that you see among different service lines, whether it’s cancer, whether it’s cardiovascular services, things of that nature. Also, how do you create a diverse workforce?
Your workforce should definitely mirror your community. For us at Self Regional, as the largest employer in our seven-county service area, we have to set the bar. And we do so very graciously because we want to do that for our community members. We want the folks to be able to make everyone feel included. So often you hear about DEI and you hear about inclusion; it’s like making sure you’re asked to the dance and making sure that you're asked to actually get up and dance and we try to take that one step further—we want to play your music, as well.
We serve seven counties. Greenwood is our largest county, but, again, part of my role is reaching those other counties in our outlying areas to address social determinants of health and things of that nature, that we’re working around food insecurity and transportation, so how do we get these things going to deliver these resources to our community members so they may be able to get the healthcare they need? Not only healthcare, but how do they get information on employment? How do they get stable housing? How do we educate our community on issues like those? We do a lot of collaboration with our other community partners in our seven county service area to be able to allow everyone to be the best version of themselves.
So your mission goes well beyond what most people think hospitals do?
Especially in healthcare, you never know what an individual may be dealing with. If you’re going up on an elevator and someone’s getting off, you don’t know if they’ve lost a parent, you don’t know if they received the worst news of their life, you don’t know if they’re very scared, you don’t know any of that. So not only are we doing things here in healthcare to assist them with those things, but we also need to be the best version of ourselves to be able to give them that support in whatever area they may need.
How has AU benefited you spiritually and in other ways?
Personally, not only was the school great, but I think also the faith background really was important and allowed me to have that inspiration while I was there for whatever things I was dealing with. As I embrace challenges now, I still rely on that faith to prosper and grow in a lot of those areas. Anderson has the reputation of being an excellent school. Anytime I tell someone I’m a graduate of Anderson University, they have nothing but good things to say. We are at the top when it comes to education and students going out and doing a lot of great things. Personally and professionally, I think it prepared me in such a way that really worked for me. If a kid from rural McCormick can go to Anderson and have a successful career, anyone can go and do it. It just takes dedication and having the passion to be able to do that.
Both of those areas were very key to me as far as coming to Anderson. Looking back, I try to get on as many alumni calls as I can, I try to give back to the school as much as I can and just stay up to date. Today I still carry my Anderson University binder. Every meeting I go to, I take this along with me and I put that down and folks will say, "Hey, you went to Anderson" and I start to tell my story. I absolutely love Anderson University.
What are your observations about Anderson University’s growth?
I was on a call with Dr. (Donald) Peace, who is a great friend of mine. Dr. Peace and I are members of the American College of Healthcare Executives, so I’m a member of the South Carolina chapter. We were just together at a conference in Chicago about 2-3 weeks ago, just sitting down and having conversations about things going on in healthcare and Anderson University, so the networking is extremely key. Some of my affiliates who work with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) have an affiliate who works at DHEC from Anderson University as well, so the networking within the state is also very exceptional.
What advice would you offer someone seeking to get into the healthcare field?
I would tell that person that if they have a passion for helping people and making a difference, then there is no better place than healthcare. Each day you get a chance to make someone’s life better.