College of Business alumnus
William Ashmore majored in accounting at Auburn University and earned a bachelor's in business administration in 1983. He is currently the chief executive officer for the State Employees' Insurance Board, or SEIB in Montgomery. Since being promoted to the job in 1990, Ashmore has administered the health benefit plans for more than 125,000 active and retired state and local government employees and their dependents. In April, he was one of two recipients to receive the Friend of Pharmacy Award from Auburn's Harrison School of Pharmacy, or HSOP. The honor is presented during the school's annual Hargreaves Awards ceremony to an individual or agency outside of the HSOP in recognition of outstanding collaboration or service to the school. Ashmore and his wife Jennie have three children.
1. Why did you come to Auburn and why did you pick accounting?
The answer is simple; I was born into an Auburn family. My two brothers and two of my sisters were Auburn graduates. Raised the last of six children, I never thought about going to any other school. I remember when I was a kid going with my family to football games on Saturday afternoons, dreaming I would be the next Pat Sullivan or Terry Beasley. Today, I still enjoy the football season and tailgating with family and friends. It's the cozy small town campus atmosphere of Auburn that I have grown to love.
My first year at Auburn, I had no idea what I wanted to be in life. I was just trying to make it through world history, English, algebra and all the other 101 classes. It was my older brother Jimmy, a CPA, who persuaded me to pick accounting and become a CPA. It would be years later before I would realize just how good his advice was for my career.
2. How did you land the job with the State Employees' Insurance Board?
After graduation, I took a job with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. It was a rewarding experience that taught me an enormous amount about the insurance business, but I knew I did not want to be a salesman all my life. I aspired to be an administrator within a large organization. I was 25 years old when I started my state career in the State Auditor's Office. I was just a kid who believed that to land a big job you must stand out from the others. It had been instilled in me by my parents to work hard, continue to learn and take on as much responsibility as your employer will give you. Don't get caught up in the negativity of the office space; instead, stay focused on improving the organization. Over time your superiors will know who is doing the best job.
In 1988, I was asked to be the chief accountant for the SEIB. It was a big opportunity to prove myself, so I worked long hours and weekends, managing the finances of the state health plan. I read every textbook (yes, I said textbook) on health care management that I could find, looking for solutions to the health care problems of the day that I could recommend to the SEIB. My sights were on the top job and I had to demonstrate my worth. By 1990, the hard work paid off when I was promoted to executive director. It has been an incredible ride ever since!
3. It seems daunting to administer the health benefit plans to more than 125,000 people. What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most daunting task is not that there are 125,000 people in the group, but instead it is living with the reality that the decisions we make at the SEIB affect the health care needs of individuals. One's life can hang in the balance based on a decision that we make. There is no room for error; the right decision must be made.
The most challenging part of my job comes from the uncertainty of what I may be hit with next. Every day brings a new challenge. The challenge may be with the executive branch, legislature, medical providers, associations or members. When I come to work, I never know what I may be facing. Some of my most noteworthy accomplishments and fulfilling times have been the result of working with my colleagues to solve problems. I relish the satisfaction when we find solutions in which all the parties involved can walk away feeling like they have been treated fairly.
4. You were involved in state legislative health care reforms in 2004 that improved benefits for employees while saving the state millions of dollars annually. Would you be involved in legislation like that again? Why or why not?
Absolutely! That's what I love about my job. To be involved in any legislative effort that improves health care and saves money for the people of our state is exciting. I consider it an honor to be involved in activities that shape health care policy in Alabama. As a result of my involvement, I have had the pleasure and privilege over the years to work with some of the brightest and most prominent health care leaders in Alabama and around the country.
5. In April, you were one of two recipients to receive the Friend of Pharmacy Award from Auburn's Harrison School of Pharmacy which is given to an individual or agency outside the school of pharmacy in recognition of outstanding collaboration or service to the school. What have you been doing to receive such an honor from the pharmacy school, which you didn't even attend?
I was flattered when I heard that I would be presented the prestigious award. I have enormous respect and admiration for Auburn's pharmacy school, which is a worldwide leader in the advancement of the field of pharmacy and in the education of new generations of pharmacists.
The SEIB and Auburn have collaborated on numerous projects focused on providing health care services to state employees and enhancing the field of pharmacy. One such project is the SEIB Wellness Center, which is located near the state capitol in downtown Montgomery and managed by Auburn University through the Pharmacy Health Services division. We use the center as a teaching laboratory to develop new innovative patient-centered pharmacy care models that are tested on a large employer population. Once the models are proven to decrease overall health care costs and improve patient health outcomes, they are presented to the Alabama pharmacy community for use in their practices. The ultimate outcome of the collaboration is improved health care for the people of the state.
Auburn understands that pharmacists possess specialized knowledge and training that are essential to the management of a patient's medical needs. We must showcase the vital role of the pharmacist as an expert team member in our nation's health care system. For me, as a non-pharmacy major, to have been given an opportunity to play a small part in this evolution has been exciting and gratifying.