Open Accessibility Menu

Dr. Melissa Dirst-Roberts Brings a Well-rounded Skillset to the Board

Dr. Melissa Dirst-Roberts Brings a Well-rounded Skillset to the Board

Every member of the Baxter Health board of directors brings a unique perspective to the table, but few can compare to Dr. Melissa Dirst-Roberts, a hospitalist and medical staff chief-elect. Dirst-Roberts brings the experience of being both nurse and physician to the table, as well as the perspective of having worked in four different health systems during her career. This enables her to communicate effectively the issues faced by frontline staff to the hospital’s highest level of leadership and vice versa. “The Baxter Health board is really well-rounded, and we make great decisions together,” she said. “What I bring, along with Dr. Jason Lindsey, who is the current chief, are the things physicians experience, their concerns and boots-on-the-ground opinion on what’s happening in the building.”

Dirst-Roberts grew up in Yellville where her parents owned and operated one of the original canoe rental companies on the Buffalo River. She entered the health care profession as an LPN, then advanced her credentials to RN. She was working in Harrison when a local cardiologist suggested she go to medical school. Following graduation, she found her way back to Baxter Health a little more than a decade ago on the strength of the hospital’s culture. “Baxter Health still has the small-town feel, but we have big-city medicine,” she said. “Within this small hospital, we have specialties people wouldn’t think you could get here. We have cardiology, neurosurgery and an infectious disease doctor. Really, we can do almost anything. “What keeps me here is that it’s independent. If I have a problem or if I need something, I just walk down the hall and into administration, and we work on a solution which is incredible and would never happen if we were owned by someone else. We find solutions quickly to any problem.”

Given her real-world perspective, it’s not surprising that one of the ongoing priorities she sees for the board is to keep Baxter Health independent, which means making hard decisions that maintain quality of care while considering fiscal responsibility. “I think one of our challenges is how to do things the way they should be done and what’s right for our community on such a tight budget,” she said. “We try to watch that budget closely and sometimes it’s painful, but we need to do that. I sit with the board every month, and that is the thing that we work hardest on, looking at every single tiny piece of that.”

Another ongoing challenge, Dirst-Roberts said, is the issue of attracting and retaining high-caliber staff at all levels of the organization. “Finding staff right now has been very difficult, especially since COVID,” she said. “Travel nursing, which during COVID was super-popular, is starting to go away now, I think. That means we are able to pick and choose the best nurses to work at Baxter Health. Of course, that’s not new; if you’re not one of the best nurses, you generally don’t stay anyway.” Dirst-Roberts said she was humbled to have been elected by the medical personnel to replace Dr. Lindsay in the medical staff chief role and vowed to repay the vote of confidence by delivering the best representation possible to the board.

“Being elected chief is a really big deal because this place and this profession are really big deals to me,” she said. “Medicine and this hospital are the only things I know at this point. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the hospital. “My first love is the Buffalo River, of course, and then comes family, but third comes medicine and the hospital. I love Baxter Health.”