When Dr. Joseph Skeens pledged $50,000 to the radiology department of Boone Memorial Hospital last spring, his inspiration stemmed from his belief in the administration’s vision, the staff’s dedication and a need by the small communities surrounding the new facility.
“When I came to West Virginia in 1993 and went to work for Charleston Area Medical Center, I became familiar with Boone Memorial and I have been working here in some capacity since then,” said Skeens. “It has always been one of my favorite hospitals. I thought the people in the community were special, the institution was special and I was very pleased when an opportunity came to be here on a more regular basis in 2008.”
Skeens cites the cumulative scope of services offered by BMH as being a progressive step forward.
“The new facility allows us to offer very advanced sub-specialty surgeries that were perhaps difficult to offer in the old facility,” he said. “The new chapter that we’re opening is very exciting to me.”
Skeens earned a degree in biomedical engineering from Tulane University and entered medical school at the University of Florida. His residency experience came at the University of Pittsburgh followed by a fellowship at Stanford University.
His connection to West Virginia is a strong and storied one. It started with his father, Leo Skeens.
“My father grew up in Marmet,” he said. “That is my connection to the area. During the depression my father caught a train in Charleston to serve in World War II. He was in the U.S. Navy and served on the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt. He grew up very poor. He was 14 years old and working on the railroad. He was the only person in the family with a job. He quit school in the eighth grade. Jobs were hard to come by when he came back from the war so he relocated to Cincinnati where factory jobs were available. That is how my family landed in Ohio but I’ve always felt a strong connection to West Virginia and the people.”
The doctor has a firm grip on what separates Boone Memorial Hospital from other facilities of its size.
“We are trying our best to meet the needs of our ER 24-hours a day and seven days per-week. This is a very high priority for us,” he said. “I think we are meeting those needs. There is a continuous need for CT-scans and plain films throughout the day and night. Additionally, we are offering as many hi-tech modalities as we are able to during the day such as nuclear medicine, ultrasound and MRI. It is a challenge in the economic and regulatory climate of today to offer those services at critical access hospitals like this. So it is somewhat unusual for a hospital of this size to offer fixed-MRI and it’s through excellent management work by the administrative team that makes this possible.”
Skeens is very excited about what lies ahead for the hospital.
“As we look towards the future with this new facility, we are able to offer surgical services here,” he said. “We can serve a supportive role for the surgeons. We can provide MRIs for our orthopedic surgeons, plain films and specialized CT-scans or an occasional bone scan. We can serve that supportive role when needed but also serve a specialized role throughout the week. I’m very pleased with where we’re headed.”
Dr. Skeens has a firm, blue-collar handshake and a smile ready for anyone that approaches him. After just a few moments observing him in his professional element, it becomes clear that he respects each employee’s responsibility at Boone Memorial Hospital. The Ohio native quickly credits the BMH staff for creating the positive, productive environment that is necessary for healing.
“I mean this sincerely when I say that this goes beyond our medical staff,” he said. “The work that the maintenance department did in keeping our old facility working and functional and up to our standards was phenomenal,” said Skeens. “Day to day cleaning services is vital to what we do. I guess that I’m trying to say that the new facility is wonderful but I hope that we don’t forget the past and that there was a tremendous amount of hard work in keeping that facility regarded highly with a good reputation, which I firmly believe that we had. Without that reputation, we would have no foundation to build this new facility.”
Today, outside of Boone Memorial Hospital, Dr. Skeens can also be found working at Oak Hill’s Plateau Medical Center. In years past, he has worked in Kentucky-based medical facilities but has not worked outside of West Virginia since 2007.
Skeens, who makes his home in Charleston, is married to Janet (Cremeans) who is a retired nurse. They have no children. His spouse is a Connecticut native but grew up in Cottageville, just outside of Ripley. She attended Ravenswood High School.
“We got married later in life,” he said.
The couple enjoy walking, particularly in Charleston on the grounds of the West Virginia State Capital Complex.
“We really love walking and we like to keep moving, it’s very important,” he said. “We wear some pretty goofy outfits so we are easy to spot.”
Skeens discussed his wife’s serious illness that she began fighting in 2010 when she was initially diagnosed. Her illness was so rare that it was documented in a medical journal. Today, she is healthy, but the road was a long one. It included two kidney transplants and treatments for malignant brain lymphoma.
“Before it was over, she required oncology, neurosurgery, nephrology and renal transplant surgery. Part of her surgery was performed at CAMC and it gave me great personal insight into the wonderful care available there.”
In regards to his donation to the BMH radiology department, Skeens said that he had no intention of dedicating the department or renaming it. He just wanted to do what he felt was his part.
“Our medical staff has been very supportive and I’m proud of that,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of gratitude towards physicians like Dr. (Ernesto T.) Yutiamco. I have memories going back to 1993 when he and I were up in the middle of the night looking at thumb x-rays. Dr. Senator (Ron) Stollings is also a huge voice for this hospital. There are so many people who have been unwavering in their support of this facility and it has allowed us to grow and be where we are today. The future of this hospital is in good hands.”
Dr. Joseph Skeens has served on related boards and has been recognized for his work by the following organizations:
* Served as Chief of CAMC Radiology 2000, 2003
* Served as President of Associated Radiologists of Charleston
* Served as President of the West Virginia Radiology Society
* Nominated as a Fellow of the American College of Radiology 2016
To learn more about the Boone Memorial Hospital Capital Campaign, contact campaign director Denver Allen at 304-539-2242 or visit bmh.org.