Kay Ray, retiring CEO of Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative, refers to her career with the organization as a wild 30-year ride.
"There are rewards I never anticipated and never expected, in working for SeMRHI," Ray said. "It gives me a sense of peace to know we have come so far in this organization, and that I am leaving it in such good hands. The new CEO Hope Braley was our former financial officer and is not only qualified but very capable of continuing the vision that was started here."
Through federal government planning grants the organization was originally able to do a feasibility study to determine primary care needs in South Mississippi. Ultimately during 1980-81 three clinics were established. In 1995 a clinic was funded to open in Hattiesburg and the surrounding communities. The organization continued to grow and expand their services.
After agreements were lengthy negotiations several school districts allowed primary care clinics to co-locate in their facilities. There are currently 14 full time SeMRHI clinics in operation in south Mississippi and 22 part-time ones.
SeMRHI is the largest of the 23 health organizations of this type now operating in Mississippi. There are 1,200 such organizations in the nation.
As CEO Ray has seen SeMRHI go from a $280,000 operating budget to a $15 million operation.
SeMRHI is governed by a community board of directors. Ray stepped down as CEO two months ago but has agreed to remain as a consultant for two years. She continues to serve on three area boards and is on the advisory council of the Pearl River Valley Opportunity.
Prior to Ray's retirement the newly constructed health complex in Hattiesburg was named and dedicated in her honor. The Kaye Ray Medical Complex is located on 20 acres in south Hattiesburg and contains the Hattiesburg Family Health Center, Women's Health Center, and the Hattiesburg Community Dental Center. A quarter mile walking track, warehouse, and maintenance shop are also located at the complex.
Ray has come a long way since her humble beginning from her childhood growing up on a family farm in Northeast Arkansas. Her parents, Russell and Ruby Bush Craig, made their home in the Delfore Community, northeast of Monette. She graduated from Childress High School and married her high school sweetheart Wayne Ray in 1960. They moved to Jonesboro in 1962 and Wayne went on to work for Jones Truck Lines there. The company transferred him to Mississippi in 1977.
The Rays make their home at 28 Troon, in Hattiesburg. They are pleased to be near the families of their two children, Jeff and Lori (Ray) Devereaus, Michael and Ginger Ray, and grandsons, Fisher Ray and Reed Ray.