The lesson from Mom was that the medical field could be rewarding, but education before beginning a career and family is an easier path, Kayla Anthony said.
“Seeing my mom have to take care of us kids, and be a nurse, and go to school. … That is hard. I wanted to be done with school before I have kids. And my mom always told me education is something they can never take from you,” said Anthony, a fraternal twin who grew up in Benton.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in community health promotion from the University of Arkansas and moved to Fort Smith to work at Golden Living. She left that job to work in admissions and human relations at Select Specialty Hospital in Fort Smith. While there, she earned a master’s degree in health services administration from Mississippi College. She began with the Mercy Foundation in 2018.
The example from her mom to continually find ways to better herself was enhanced, Anthony said, by Patrick Pendleton, Mercy Foundation executive director. Anthony said he’s very well versed in the history of Mercy “and the culture that we have and continue to maintain.”
“He’s really going to blush when he reads this, but he’s the most patient, calm leader I’ve ever had,” Anthony said.
She and her husband Justin, a certified public accountant, don’t have children, but they have two dogs and are big fans of playing board games and attending trivia night events. She’s also active with the Junior League of Fort Smith, where she will soon be the community impact vice president.
And community is what she wants to impact.
“I have discovered I have an appreciation for the concept of community and to help those who are marginalized, who are poor,” Anthony said. She said that part of the joy in working at the foundation is “being at a place where someone can reach out to you and even if you don’t have the answer, you can help them find the answer.”
She’s also an optimist about Fort Smith’s future.
“I think that there can be this perception of negativity, but I think there is a lot of good in this community, a lot of organizations, a lot of people who are willing to help.”