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St. Luke's CEO goes from music to medicine

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Dr. Melinda Estes went to college on a full music scholarship. Her goal was to become a concert bassoonist. 

However, the problem was she realized after the end of her first year that music is 90 percent hard work and 10 percent talent.

"I had no trouble with the hard work, but I didn't have the full allocation of the 10 percent talent. So, I thought this is time for me to start thinking of something else," she said.

That "something else" turned out to be medical school - the perfect combination of her creativity and book smarts.

"Medicine is both an art and a science. It combines both the science, but it is also an art to figure out how the brain and spinal cord are wired, and where the disruption is. It's not only science, but it also requires careful history taking, careful examination and a lot of art," she said.

Estes spent her first decade in neuropathy and teaching. In the mid-90s, she began leaning toward administration. She followed that up with a Master of Business Administration.

But with a husband and two daughters, some questioned whether she could handle the business of medicine.

"Over the years, I've had folks who've looked at me and said, 'oh you're not tough enough,' 'you're a woman,' or 'you have children at home so you can't give the time and energy needed to do this job,'" she said.

Her response was she saw it as a challenge and worked harder to be more prepared.

"I think it has paid off," she said.

That preparation has paid off and today she's the CEO of Saint Luke's Health System, a total of 11 hospitals. That means budgets, deadlines and the new Affordable Care Act.

But she also has the trust of her staff since she is more than an administrator. She is also one of them.

"First and foremost, our goal is to take the best care we can of our patients, to provide the highest quality safest care, and if we can do that, and remember why we all went into medicine, then the budget and the financial pressures - everything will ultimately work itself out," she said.

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