Come Ready to Play

Students Must Be Prepared for Opportunities

What are the keys to success? According to John Bluford, there are four, and the first and most important is “Be on time and come ready to play.”

He follows this with his other keys to success: have good communication skills – written and verbal; assume challenging assignments; possess honesty and integrity; and have mentors.

Bluford, president emeritus of Truman Medical Centers, was the guest of the UMKC Men of Color Campus Initiative’s INSIGHT: The Speaker Series and shared his ‘story’ about education, his career, leadership and success with the audience of mostly students.

He answered questions posed by Rodney Smith, Ed.D., founder and adviser for Men of Color and associate director, student support services in the Center for Academic Development.

From his childhood in South Carolina, to odd jobs in college, his love of basketball and his move to Kansas City for the position at Truman Medical Centers, Bluford told about his life and his experiences.

When he was young, Bluford knew that he loved basketball, biology and music, specifically jazz. “By third grade, I had bought my first John Coltrane album, and it still plays. And, I always envisioned myself as a basketball player.”

“I always had a basketball and was dribbling or playing in a game,” said Bluford. “When I was accepted into Fisk University in Nashville, I sent a letter to my soon-to-be coach at Fisk saying ‘this is your lucky day,’ referring to my joining Fisk’s team and my upcoming arrival at my now alma mater.

He worked three jobs during summer breaks from Fisk, including at a trucking company, a chemical company and as a clerk in the hospital emergency room for Meharry Medical College. Bluford began to have an appreciation for hospitals and the work they perform.

“I learned a lot and probably more from nurses than anyone. I learned how to run a hospital. And also from the administrative support staff in the hospital where I worked,” said Bluford. “I believe you can learn something from anybody – independent of their job title.

“I didn’t think I would have a career in healthcare, but, whatever my career, I was confident that I would be good at it. Perhaps I would be a sax player or a basketball player,” said Bluford.

When asked to define leadership, he said it’s an ability to influence others toward a common goal, but you need to be trustworthy and have a vision in which you believe; then you can lead.

“To be successful, you need to love what you do, and I have loved my positions.” he said. And, most importantly, you must have integrity.

What excites him – watching a full court press in a basketball game, the saxophone and people with common goals. Again, back to basketball. To succeed in basketball, you must come to the game on time and prepared.

“The same is true with life. You must prepare for the opportunities that will present themselves. And, you must be ready to play,” said Bluford.

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

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