Serving as the new executive director of Hospice of McAlester is like coming home for Gary Hightower.

A former McAlester resident, Hightower is returning to the city to accept the post. The Hospice of McAlester Board of Directors voted to hire Hightower following the retirement of long-time executive director Rhonda Kurvink.

He returned to McAlester from Norman, where he had served as administrator at a large skilled nursing facility.

Hospice of McAlester is a non-profit agency that offers care to patients in the final stages of a terminal illness.

“Our goal is to make sure our patients are comfortable and to give support to the family at the end of life,” Hightower said.

Hospice goes to wherever it is that a patient needs care, whether at home, in a hospital or in a long-term care facility, according to Hightower.

Family services include a Grief Support group that meets every other Tuesday, Hightower said. The next meeting is set for 5 p.m. on March 4 at the Hospice of McAlester offices at 801 E. Wyandotte Ave. Everyone is welcome, even if their family member did receive care from Hospice of  McAlester, according to Hightower. For example, some who’ve attended the meetings have lost loved ones in an accident.

While service for hospice care can be reimbursed through Medicare or by private insurance, the expense of caring for those who have no insurance or Medicare coverage is absorbed by Hospice of McAlester.

“I am excited to be back in my home town and look forward to working with the board of directors, our medical directors; Dr. Chris Manschreck and Dr. John Cotton and Dr. Kim Kurvink, physicians, nursing facilities and the residents of the area to offer the best end of life care available,” Hightower said.

Future goals are for expanding the care offered through Hospice of McAlester beyond Pittsburg County to all of the counties that border it. Hightower said that proposal is expected to be considered during the next meeting of the Hospice of McAlester board.

A 1982 McAlester High School graduate, Hightower earned an associate’s degree in business administration from Eastern Oklahoma State College. Following a stint as an assistant manager for McDonald’s, he attended Southeastern Oklahoma State College in Durant, here he received a degree in business information systems.

He also attended the University of Oklahoma Administrators’ school, receiving his state licenses in 1998.

Hightower has more than 20 years experience working as an administrator in long-term care.

He is not the only one in his family to have worked in senior health care. Joyce Hightower, his mother, has worked in long-term care in several areas, including as a director of nurses, an administrator, and an owner of a skilled nursing facility.

His father, Ron Hightower, is a retired teacher with McAlester Public Schools.

Some who may not recognize Gary Hightower by sight may recognize his voice. During his younger days, he covered football and basketball for  McAlester Radio for three seasons.

Anyone needing more information can contact Hospice of McAlester at 918-423-3911.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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