For Sarah I. Wilson, becoming assistant general counsel of CoxHealth felt like “drinking from a firehose.”
Having focused for the first eight years of her career on real estate at a law firm, she found herself in 2014 racing to master the complexities of hospital operations at CoxHealth — a network of six hospitals, more than 80 clinics, five emergency rooms and nearly 12,000 employees throughout southwest Missouri.
“It’s a huge system with a lot of moving pieces,” she said. “Fortunately, a lot of what I do is contracting and drafting, so it’s the same skill set.” And it helped, she added, that the other four attorneys and the paralegal in the legal department — all women — have been willing to assist her.
Wilson grew up in both Missouri and Texas before graduating from the University of Missouri School of Law in 2007. She clerked for Missouri Supreme Court Judge Mary Russell until 2008, getting exposure to many areas of law.
That same year, she was hired at Husch Blackwell. While there, she represented both buyers and sellers in real estate transactions, but she also handled commercial loans, commercial leases and some construction law. One of the most interesting projects she worked on, she recalled, was the redevelopment deal for the locally beloved Mother’s Brewing Co. in Springfield, which involved the securing of a tax abatement.
While she does some real-estate and tax work at CoxHealth, her primary responsibility is physician contracts. The company employs around 500 physicians who are governed by a separate entity called Cox Medical Group. Wilson is responsible for drafting and managing almost all of the physician contracts within that entity. She also manages various system contracts such as vendor agreements, service agreements and consulting agreements.
Occasionally, she also will handle what her office refers to as “calls to the floor.” In these unusual situations, the staff in the emergency room needs consent to address a patient issue, but they’re not sure who can give it — for example, a male patient doesn’t have power of attorney in place, has arrived with his girlfriend and is estranged from his family. So the staff calls the legal department for guidance.
Another duty of Wilson’s is to chair the system’s compensation compliance committee, in which the voting members review the compensation plans the company has put together to ensure they’re up to regulation (meaning fair-market-value and commercially reasonable).
Wilson also acts as a liaison to the Cox Family Residency Program and Ferrell-Duncan Clinic, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of CoxHealth that is a multispecialty physician clinic with 120 physicians.
Outside of work, Wilson volunteers at Rescue One, a foster-based animal rescue organization in Springfield. After it launched in 2014, she began volunteering at adoption events. In 2015, they asked her to join the board. She agreed, and she now serves as the nonprofit’s secretary.
She said she’s interested in adopting a rescue dog, but she already has two dogs — both rescues.
“My husband said we don’t need a third dog,” she said.