After 15 years of gaining higher education, professional work experience, and traveling the world, Joe Mount, 33, is home again. Ironically, the road has taken him back to a place where he spent much of his time as a youth: the Steck Clinic on Bishop Road in Chehalis.
In addition to typical childhood ailments, he suffered a broken arm, appendicitis, and a diagnosis of Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, all of which brought him through Steck’s doors. Now he returns as the Chief Operations Officer in charge of clinic administration and operational management.
His inspiration to enter medicine began at the age of ten when his grandfather, Joe Mount, Sr., passed away from terminal brain cancer. His son, the former owner of Bartels Clothing Store, told his son, “Seek a career where you can help people like your grandfather. My generation will be seeking medical care. Find a way to serve that generation.”
Football fans at W.F West High School remember “Joey” as the third-grader who ran out between plays, picked up the ball, wiped it and returned it to the referee. Mount relished the opportunity to be the Bearcat’s ball boy under longtime coach Ivor “Hubba” Hoglund. Coached by his father, Mount also played Pee Wee football from third grade through high school.
“There was a core group of about ten youth who started as Pee Wee players and were still playing ten years later,” Mount said. “I love to tell that story because it’s unusual to have that kind of longevity.”
When football ended for the year, it was time for wrestling. John Taylor was the high school wrestling coach. “Wrestling really molded me,” Mount said. “I owe a lot to John Taylor. I learned a plethora of life principles through wrestling. He instilled a level of discipline and training to achieve goals.”
On February 20 in 2002, Mount’s life changed. It was a Wednesday night after church activities, and Mount wasn’t feeling well. He stopped at Steck Urgent Care for evaluation and to have his blood drawn. Two hours later, the doctor called to let him know his blood sugar was over 800. He was taken immediately to Providence Centralia Hospital for inpatient treatment, where he was confirmed to have Type 1 Diabetes.
From then on, Mount’s life was one of constant blood testing, syringes, insulin pump management and monitoring his carbohydrate intake. But the sports didn’t end. Mount learned how to give himself shots and watch for the tell-tale signs that his blood sugar was dropping.
Because of his experience with diabetes, Mount decided to major in pre-med and be a physician after he enrolled at Brigham Young University. He initially thought that such an academic focus would damper his school sports involvement. Mount was distraught at the idea because he’s played sports since he was eight years old.
By the time he realized he could make time for both academics and sports, he was too late to try out for the college football team. He was, however, intrigued by the rugby team practices. Similarities between the two sports helped Mount learn and excel quickly, especially since wrestlers and football players make good rugby players. He went to tryouts and made the team.
Mount played rugby during his freshman year then went on a two-year mission in Minnesota for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he returned to BYU as a sophomore, his old spot on the rugby team was waiting for him.
Mount’s timing could not have come at a better time for BYU. Until that year, BYU had never won a national championship, always losing to the University of California, Berkeley. “That year, we went to nationals and finally beat Cal Berkeley in the 2009 finals,” Mount said.
BYU lost the next two finals, but in Mount’s senior year, the division changed. They played Arkansas in the finals and won their second national championship. Mount graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
By then, his interest in business management was changing focus. While on his mission, Mount did service work for the Mayo Clinic. Justin Bradshaw, a healthcare administrator at the clinic, talked to him about an MHA degree that combined business and hospital administration.
Mount had a passion for health care because of his diabetes. He also had business savvy from working for Bartels, his father’s clothing store in Chehalis. “After talking with Justin, it dawned on me that this is what I should do with my career,” Mount said. His course pivoted from pre-med to healthcare administration.
From Fall 2012 to Spring 2014, Mount worked on a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. From there, his resume jumped all over the map. He interned at a 900-bed non-profit hospital in Dallas, Texas, worked at small community hospitals in Springville and Bentonville, Arkansas, opened and ran clinics for Geisinger Health in central Pennsylvania and most recently worked as an assistant administrator at a for-profit hospital in Las Vegas.
Then tragedy hit — a worldwide pandemic and a death in the family.
In August, Mount visited his family with an inclination to find a job closer to home. While he was looking, Mount took time to hike and travel, a past time he took up when he lived on the east coast. He has visited all 50 states, 45 countries and 42 of our 63 national parks. “I treat my travels as learning,” Mount said.
On a weekend adventure in the Cascades, he hurt his foot and ended up at Steck for an x-ray, where he renewed his friendship with his neighbors, the family of Dr. Harley Miller. They are the majority owners of Steck Medical Group and were looking for someone to fill the Chief Operations Officer position. Rachel Miller visited his parents, not knowing Mount was there and informally interviewing Mount for the position.
“He had grown into a very impressive professional individual,” Miller said. “He had traveled, had degrees from BYU and The George Washington University, and wanted to serve in the community where he grew up. He also had real-world experiences running clinics that qualified him for the task.”
Soon after his hiring, Mount plunged into a facelift for the exterior of the Steck building. Volunteers from the clinic and community, missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and members from the Seventh-day Adventist Church helped paint to keep costs down.
Other notable improvements Mount implemented as the new Chief Operations Officer include a new scrubs dress code, extended urgent care hours, more efficient billing, a streamlined phone service, improved facilities, new staff and a growing provider panel. Updated practices will help draw new patients and keep long-term patients coming back.
“I was born and raised here,” Mount said. “I know this community. I’m dedicated to serving our patients, staff and providers for years to come.”