Angie Boyd-Chambers is proud to serve as a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media of her alma mater. Like several other CME faculty members, Angie is a graduate of MTSU, earning her bachelor’s degree in mass communication in 2001 before earning a master’s in public relations from Full Sail University in 2015. She was inducted into the College’s Wall of Fame in 2014. She also holds a 21st Century Advanced Leadership Certificate from Lipscomb University in Nashville.
She is also the founder and owner of Boyd-Chambers Communications and previously served as Chief Marketing & Communications Officer for Ascension Saint Thomas Health, where she worked for nearly 15 years. She began her career as the 286-bed hospital’s public relations director.
She led PR and marketing efforts for a $267 million project for Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital's replacement facility. In 2011, she took on Saint Thomas Health system-level responsibilities in Community and Physician Services, then Marketing & Communications. Before joining Saint Thomas Health, Angie worked with StoneCrest Medical Center, a member of HCA, and when living in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., she worked for JHA Marketing as a product specialist and facilitator for BMW and its Mini Cooper division.
She is extremely active in the community, including co-chairing the 2014 Rutherford County Heart Ball and serving on the board of ATHENA International and the executive leadership committee for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement.
She spoke to Dean Beverly Keel about being an Army brat, launching her own company and being the mother of three.
Tell us a little about your upbringing. Where were you raised? What was your childhood like?
I am a proud “Army brat” and the youngest of three girls. My father served in the intelligence branch and retired as a colonel. We moved quite a bit and ended up in Murfreesboro when I was in elementary school. After my father retired from active duty, he taught JROTC at Riverdale High School and my mother was the business law and business academy teacher at Oakland and then Blackman High School. Life was busy with my mom handling three girls while dad was overseas or somewhere with the Army. My parents are a gift. They taught me many things, but two I remember daily are my parents saying every time I left the house: i. Don’t ever forget where you came from. ii. We all put our pants on the same way – everyone deserves the same kindness and respect.
How and when did you choose your career in healthcare communications? Tell us about your career progression.
I always knew I loved healthcare. However, I nearly faint when I see blood, so I did not think being a physician would be a good path for me. I value relationship building and creating things that are impactful. My mom brought up public relations, and it was then I decided I could go into public relations in healthcare. I graduated from MTSU with a major in mass communication with an emphasis in public relations and minors in healthcare and marketing. From there I was persistent, and I mean persistent, to get an internship at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford (formerly Middle Tennessee Medical Center). The first day of my internship I immediately fell in love with my career. After graduation I married my high school sweetheart, Matt, and we moved to the D.C. area and then to Ft. Lauderdale. While in Ft. Lauderdale, my career took a turn as I followed a new path put before me, and I served as a product specialist traveling the U.S. and working International Auto Shows for the Mini Cooper brand. I then moved into training car dealers on the BMW 3 Series, traveling all over conducting ride and drives. Fast forward several years, I came home and was offered a job back at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford and served in the public relations director role. Over the course of 17 years, I moved through several positions in the communications department to ending in my dream job as the chief communications & marketing officer for the health system. I love everything about Ascension and the people who serve in it. I believe if you are not challenged, you are not growing. In 2014, I went back to school and received a Master of Arts in Public Relations and being named to the MTSU College of Media & Entertainment Wall of Fame will remain in my Top 5 of honors and accomplishments. I took the leap of faith and left Ascension in 2019 to begin a strategic brand development firm, Boyd-Chambers Communications. I possibly could have been more clever with my company name, however I felt I had worked many years building my own brand, so why not keep it simple? As I continue to push forward in my career, another goal I had was to teach once I felt I had the knowledge and wisdom to share from what I have learned over the years. Thanks to Sharon Fitzgerald and Dr. Greg Pitts, I am blessed to have begun teaching here at my alma mater in the fall of 2021. The exciting thing is I have many more goals to accomplish and as long as I stay true to myself and my dreams, I can keep checking off the master list.
Tell me about some of the campaigns on which you have worked.
There are many I am proud of and absolutely loved building, but I would have to say the one that sticks out is the Nothing Shall Be Impossible Campaign we launched at Ascension. The campaign was meant to be inclusive, messaging that the health system was there to take care of you and your loved ones in a time of need. The outcome is not always what we plan for or want, however Ascension has the best at your side caring for and praying with you. The campaign featured real patients, physicians, and nurses. We told the stories through their eyes and stated to the community, “with God and each other, nothing shall be impossible.” The campaign won several awards, and you can still see some of it’s messaging throughout the hospitals today.
Tell me about reaching the decision to teach full time.
This is something I have had on my career bucket list since I was a student here at MTSU. I have always enjoyed mentoring and helping others as much as I can. I love sharing what I have learned through the years, and I am hopeful it can help my students as they begin their career journeys. I learn from the students, just as much as I hope they learn from me, and I love every day I get to see them and discuss strategy, campaign planning, and the magic that happens when all communications specialties integrate to collaborate and become one team. That is what makes the brand and message at it’s best. I have always believed your work should be a part of you, not something that you have to show up at and you can’t wait to leave. Do what you love. I love my strategy and campaign planning work and still do that in addition to teaching, which I believe makes me stronger as I stay connected in the communications profession and bring my experiences into classes.
How has the public relations industry changed since you started? What trends or new practices do you see emerging?
PR is an amazing field because of the growth and the growing respect for the trade. Our world changes daily, and I believe the tools and resources we have available help show the value of what we add, and because of that the industry continues to gain respect and grow substantially. PR is a field that will always be needed; it’s just how we do our job that consistently changes. Being in a career that is always growing and changing is exciting for PR professionals – we thrive off change and figuring things out “trial by fire.” Showing the value and ROI (return on investment) of PR is critical, and the technology we have access to allows us to tell our story in a whole new way. PR is strategic, and we should always have a seat at the leadership table. I also need to stress the importance of not losing the relationship part of the trade. Relationships are what it is all about, and if we try to get too digital, we lose sight of the personalization and building the face-to-face relationships. The old saying, “you always go back to your roots.” We must remember that while technology is great and helps us in many ways, we must not forget the personalization and relationships that bring our brands to life.
What are some memorable moments in your life that shaped who you are today?
It begins with the life lessons I was taught by my parents of honesty, kindness, respect, and being the hardest worker in the room. I grew up having chores such as mowing several acres of grass and being held accountable to have high grades while staying involved and active in school and my community. Because of those values and ethics, I was blessed to work with an amazing team and had one of the greatest leaders as my CEO for many years, Gordon Ferguson. I learned a lot from his leadership and one thing I know is that I never show up to a meeting unprepared. Be over-prepared and set yourself and your team up for success. Another great boss I was fortunate to work for is Nick Ragone, who trusted me and through many hours of interviews (which I am thankful for) I was promoted to chief marketing & communications officer. What a joy and an incredible experience I had in that role. I am grateful for the trust Ascension had in me, and I believe it goes back to the values and ethics my parents instilled throughout my life. I am blessed to have had many amazing talented individuals serve on my teams, and I keep in contact with several of them. It is so much fun to watch them grow in their careers. As I moved forward, starting my own firm was scary, but as I said above, I always want to continue to be challenged, that is how you grow. I am thankful to the many clients I have had who have trusted me with their brands. We have had such a great time building their vision and watching it grow.
What are some things you have learned in life that you share with students?
1. Do not let fear stop you, let that be your motivator. 2. Do not stay in a job that does not fit with your ethics and values. Take the scary step and make the change. If you stay somewhere that does not fulfill you, you do not have availability to find something that does. 3. Follow the paths put before you. Do not stay so focused that you miss something that could be very special. 4. Always be yourself; do not change who you are for anyone or any job. You are what makes it amazing and make sure you find the place that respects and knows your gifts and talents. Not every company will know how special you are, but there is definitely one out there that will. You must take time and be persistent to find it. 5. If and when you hear no, keep going. If you want it bad enough, it can be yours. Anyone can be anything they want to be, it’s the commitment and dedication that gets you there.
Do you have any tips for balancing life, family, and career?
Love what you do and there is no need to balance it. I have always made my family a part of my career, and as a mom I am proud for my kids to see that everything is important. It is how you plan and spend your time that makes the difference. When it is time for family, I am with my family being silly and having fun with the kids. They also watch me love my job coming home happy with fun stories every night. Just like they come home from school and after school activities. When things feel wild, I try to stay consistent in prayer time to be reminded each day that there is a greater power supporting me through this life.
What do you do when you aren’t working? Do you have any hobbies?
My family works out at D1 in Franklin, and I love that time together. The kids have their workouts when the adults work out, so as a family we get to be healthy together. I love being a football, baseball, soccer, cheer, gymnastics, and basketball mom, and find myself at practices or games all the time! I love it and the socializer in me loves that I get to see many of my friends there too. The kids take music and that is fun as my husband Matt and I have them teach us what they are learning. There is never a dull moment in our house with three kids ages 14, 11 & 7.
What are you watching on TV or streaming? Are you listening to any music that you really like?
Matt and I love watching shows together after the kids go to bed. A time for us to wind down and hang out. We laugh because a lot of the shows we like always get discontinued, so maybe that should tell us something, but right now we are into Yellowstone and never watched Friends, so starting that. As a family, we just finished the many seasons of Heartland on Netflix. Such a great show! Music is always on in our house. Anything from worship to hip hop, rap, country, to Dave Matthews. We love it all. Music is good for the soul and makes everything happy!