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Shortly after being named director of Imaging at IU Health West, Will Sexton was called to serve his country. Now that he’s returned from active duty, he’s getting to know his team.
By Charlotte Stefanski, firstname.lastname@example.org, writer for IU Health's Indianapolis Suburban Region
Will Sexton has always been drawn to the human body—how it works and the science behind it.
“Sports and human movement were always interesting to me. It just made sense to me,” Sexton says.
When he enrolled at Indiana University, he studied Kinesiology, the science of movement, and Exercise Science for his undergraduate degree, and then went to get his Master's in Exercise Physiology.
But those weren’t his only interests. Sexton had always wanted to enlist in the military.
“I had always wanted to, but my mother was always afraid of it, so she tried to talk me out of it,” Sexton explains. “But I still had that itch.”
He officially joined the United States Army in 2003, and for the next 13 years, 10 months and 25 days (not that he counted) he would be on active duty.
But after that stint, his family of five decided it was time to settle down somewhere. First, Sexton took an assistant director of Imaging position at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Four years later, he moved back to Indiana, and joined Terre Haute Regional Hospital as director of Imaging Services and Special Diagnostics. His family lived in Avon because his wife was a teacher in Zionsville and IU Health West seemed like the perfect fit for him.
“I was like, ‘Man, I'd love to get an opportunity there,’ and then about a year and a half later, it opened up and I was like, ‘Oh, I have to,’” Sexton says. “I felt very fortunate to get that opportunity.”
Sexton officially joined the IU Health West team as director of Imaging Services in August 2022, but within the span of a few weeks, active duty would call again, and he was off to Kuwait.
One year later, he’s officially back and working to get reacquainted with the West team.
Discovering imaging in the Army
Sexton was 29 with a child on the way when he first enlisted in the Army, and while leaping out of planes looked fun, he decided to stay in the medical field to grow and share his expertise.
The Army had a wide array of roles—both in and out of healthcare—and radiology peaked his interest. As someone who had broken bones and had strains, it seemed like the perfect field for Sexton.
His traditional schooling in Indiana was much different from training in the military, and he explains that the military streamlines all its medical training, whereas in college, students have plenty of book work and get a deep understanding and a lot of knowledge from the readings.
“In the Army, everything is very cut and dry. It's like, ‘This is what we do.’ It's a methodology more than anything,” Sexton says. “You're thrown into it and expected to perform, and so your development and your knowledge comes from your experiences, versus learning from a book.”
Luckily for Sexton, he already had in-depth knowledge about the body and bones from schooling. While others had trouble with terms and names, he was on top of it.
His first duty station was in Grafenwöhr, Germany, where he was the only x-ray technologist for his first three years. Eventually, the team grew to five and shot about 20 – 25 films per day, which gave him plenty of free time.
“I put my thoughts and my energies elsewhere. I became our compliance officer and I wore a lot of different hats over there,” he says. “I worked with nursing, I worked with doctors, I stayed up on the compliance for both those fields.”
Sexton then went on to receive training in nuclear medicine with both the U.S. Navy and went through more training at Brooke Army Medical Center. He was then stationed at Fort Knox for about 14 months, but then decided to re-enlist, and went back to the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas to become director of Imaging Services.
“It finally got to the point where I felt like I'd outgrown my role and there was nowhere to go unless I was going to do more Army activities. Which, at 40 years old, most people retire,” Sexton says.
So, he shifted gears, going into the Army Reserve. Now, he’s a transportation mobility warrant officer, tracking large movements for the Army.
“If a unit was deployed, like when a brigade or battalion deploys, I would be the person that puts the movement together, their timeline and how they're going to get from point A to point B,” he explains.
“It's my job to make the timeline from the port to the fight. That’s what I did in my last deployment. I tracked all the movements in and out of Kuwait, in and out of the Middle East.”
Back in U.S. soil at IU Health West
Sexton officially returned to IU Health West this October, resuming his role as director of Imaging. Within that role, he serves as the strategic leader for Radiology.
“We’re trying to keep a pulse on what's happening in the imaging world, as well as what's happening at West, melding the two together to look ahead down the road so that we can meet the needs of patients and doctors.”
West’s Imaging team is the only 24/7 Imaging department in the IU Health Indianapolis Suburban Region—IU Health North, Saxony, Tipton and West hospitals. This includes all forms of imaging, like CT, MRI, radiology and ultrasounds.
It’s one of the region’s busiest departments, Sexton says, with a large capacity of two MRI machines, and three CT units.
Whether he be abroad with the Army or back home in the hospital, Sexton has always been drawn to leadership and connects with his teams well.
“Some people might think, ‘He's from the Army, he's probably disciplinarian.’ I'm not at all, I’m very collaborative,” Sexton says. “I don't think disciplinarian works in every circumstance. It works in the military, because when you're in a fight or any stressful situation, you have to be direct. That's not really me in real life. I’m very much more inclusive.”
Sexton is also a bit playfully competitive with other departments in the hospital and he’s always looking for ways to encourage and improve his department. His natural curiosity also plays into his leadership role.
“Leadership is different every day. You have your standard goals—you want to mentor people, change and lead the way,” Sexton says. “But every day is a new day, when you walk in, you have a new set of challenges. There's always something that's boiling in the background. That's exciting to me.”
While Sexton had originally considered retiring from the military when he first joined the West team, that’s now on hold, as he still enjoyed his last deployment. He hopes to take on new roles in transportation, whether it be trucking or railroad.
“We'll see what happens,” he says.
Now that he’s back, Sexton is getting reintegrated with his role and team, and working to build a better grasp on it.
Sexton thanks Terrie Byars, who served as interim director for the West Imaging team, and Sam Schultz, who supported the team as department manager.
“Our team is fantastic. They do a great job,” Sexton says. “Our culture is wonderful and that's a credit to our leadership.”