Dr. Kip Schumacher, founder of the Schumacher Group (now SCP Health), one of the largest healthcare management companies in the U. S., joined Discover Lafayette to discuss his medical career journey and creation of the William C. Schumacher Family Foundation which funds charitable initiatives focused on improving quality of life, education, crisis response, and healthcare measures. Erica Ray, CEO of the foundation, also joined us.
Kip is a Lafayette native, and attended Hamilton Elementary School and Lafayette High. He graduated from USL (now UL-Lafayette) and LSU Medical School.
A successful entrepreneur at an early age, Kip made costume jewelry from brass, silver, and gold wire to fund his higher education. His creations caught the eye of Barbara Abdalla, and the iconic Lafayette retailer, Abdalla’s, was the first to buy from him.
While he started out in pediatrics, Kip would moonlight in the ER and he fell in love with emergency room medicine. It was an environment where he got to know people of all ages from all walks of life and he realized how challenging access to medicine could be for so many people. He worked for 17 years as an ER doc at Opelousas Medical Center and it was there that Kip realized there had to be a more efficient way to treat patients while helping the hospital make the financial side work.
In 1980 when Kip started working at Opelousas General, the hospital contracted separately with each doctor. Kip approached the management team with a proposal to let him manage hirings, payroll, scheduling, and medical malpractice claims; he witnessed how effectively the doctors worked when they operated as a team rather than as separate independent contractors answering to the hospital.
His chance to expand his management acumen came about when a doctor friend at Iberia General approached him to take over their administrative operations when he retired. Kip found the work rewarding and it followed his calling to provide the type of medical service they did at Opelousas General. His mission was to provide quality care for the patients and he came to understand that success was dependent upon all of the healthcare providers working as a team, and respecting one another. This team concept in medicine was relatively new at the time.
Kip had learned that it wasn’t his prescribed treatment that made a difference in patient outcomes, “It’s everything around that patient that makes a difference.” He endeavored to ensure that each team member from the ward clerk, the nurses, and the doctors, were respected. “That was the strategy that led me down the path of starting Schumacher Group. It’s a simple philosophy that I’ve found has held a lot of people back, not just in medicine, but in business in general and in life. They don’t stop and look at the people around them and realize that their lives are so dependent upon people that they don’t show the respect that they could. Look at everyone around you and see how they fit into the grand scheme of what it is you’re trying to accomplish.”
He established the Schumacher Group in 1994 with the goal of helping hospitals streamline their Emergency Room operations with staffing, scheduling, billing, insurance, and quality management. Kip grew the Schumacher Group from managing the ER services at 10 facilities in one year to 50 facilities in 5 years.
After experiencing exponential growth over the years, Schumacher merged with other companies to widen its array of services. Today, SCP Health is one of the largest healthcare partners in the country serving over 8 million patients in 30 states. Kip’s dream of bringing his caring touch to help our most vulnerable get the most efficient access to healthcare has truly become a reality.
“One thing I’ve learned is that if you have a really good mission and a vision that you can communicate very effectively, it makes success a lot easier. You’ll attract the kind of people who believe the things you do. Stay true to your mission and you’ll have people around you to make you look good and pick you up when you fall down.”
Kip’s parents instilled in him the value of giving back to the community. “I had amazing parents that taught me that there’s more to life than just working and enjoying the fruits of your work. It’s about giving back and being part of the community.”
Kip and his wife Carolyn founded the William C. Schumacher Family Foundation in 2018, and its work has helped a myriad of philanthropic causes including education and disaster relief recovery. Erica Ray explained that it’s all about “bringing the community together as a catalyst for greater things to happen. And there’s always an opportunity for engagement.”
While millions of dollars have been dedicated to helping organizations such as Eight Days of Hope, Pratham Education Foundation, Leader in Me Acadiana, United Way of Acadiana, Love Our Schools, and many others, Kip and Erica stressed that it’s the small gestures that can have the most impact. As an example, recently the foundation organized an effort to send thank you notes to 4350 Lafayette Parish Public School staff members as a way to show kids, teachers, principals ,and the superintendent that people care. “Small things such as a thank you note made the biggest difference. We took a model from Arizona called School Connect that had a community and family engagement model, that was principal-centric, and we teamed up with non-profits, businesses, faith-based organizations, parents, and students,” says Erica Ray. Many volunteers got into action to make this happen, including Lafayette Parish Jail inmates who have benefitted from the educational program run at the facility.
A big fundraiser is now underway to raise funds for Love Our Schools Foundation to benefit public education across Lafayette Parish: the Love Our Schools Home Giveaway.
Love Our Schools is selling $25 tickets for the chance to win a brand-new home valued at $330,000 to be built and donated by Manuel Builders in Couret Farms. The drawing will be held on September 21, 2022, with the deadline to purchase tickets being September 18, 2022. A portion of the proceeds will be given directly to each school within the Lafayette Parish School System to address their specific areas of need, while the remainder will be used for future Love Our Schools initiatives. This home giveaway is made possible through the generosity of Manuel Builders with the donation of the home construction and Southern Lifestyle Development with the donation of the lot.
Kip has called upon many leaders in our community who have made a profound impact helping those most in need. After Hurricane Laura in 2020, he gathered a coalition of faith groups to help our neighbors in Lake Charles who were in crisis. Pastors were called in and asked what their needs were. To this day, they are still organized and helping each other. “Big things are great, but it starts with the small things and cultural engagement to sustain a movement.” A similar effort in the Lafayette/Acadiana area was organized after Hurricane Ida hit as resources were directed to those most in need. Kip says, “They are stronger together with one powerful voice. People coming together at the table is the name of the game.”
In closing, we’d like to thank Kip Schumacher for his dedication to our community. And with the last quote of his from our interview that rings so true: “We are the only ones that can solve our problems. You can take all the outside influences you want, but in the end, it’s the little things that make a difference. If money could solve problems, we wouldn’t have any problems.”