Rural Roots Run Deep for New Springfield Leader

Mark Costley
Mark Costley, a lifelong resident of southwest Missouri, is the interim associate dean of MU’s Springfield Clinical Campus.

The MU School of Medicine opened the Springfield Clinical Campus in 2016 to address the state’s physician shortage, which is most dire in rural areas.

If Springfield Clinical Campus students need proof that a fulfilling life in medicine can be found close to home, they have a role model in their new interim associate dean and chief academic officer, Mark Costley, MD ’81.

He was born in the small southwest Missouri city of Monett. His family roots there stretch back to 1895 — just eight years after the town settled on a name — when his great-grandmother bought the land where he was raised and his mother still lives. He practiced family medicine in Monett for 32 years. He and his wife raised three children there. Since becoming the medical director of CoxHealth Springfield in 2016 and now the SCC’s leader, he has commuted about 50 miles each weekday morning and evening rather than leave his hometown behind.

“I love small-town life,” Costley said. “I love the idea of taking care of friends and being a part of the community. I was the chamber of commerce president and was on various committees. It’s been a joy to see the community grow
and thrive.”

At the SCC, he will nurture another growing community. MU medical students spend their first two years in Columbia and then have the option to relocate to Springfield for their third and fourth years. The Springfield class sizes have been increasing and could reach full capacity by next year. Costley looks forward to guiding the SCC as it becomes a permanent fixture in Springfield.

“The thought is to do the best for the school with the decisions we make, and if they’re good decisions, they’ll be long-term decisions,” Costley said. “One of our early challenges was to recruit faculty and raise the community profile of the school. We now have enough momentum and enough of a bullpen that when we come down here next year with 30 students, we’ll be successful.”

Costley takes over for Andrew Evans, MD, who returned to private practice after a two-year stint as the leader of the SCC. Costley had remained connected to MU since he earned bachelor’s, master’s and MD degrees from the school.

“He was always very much tied to the school, had students working with him in his practice and is a big supporter overall of the school,” said Patrick Delafontaine, MD, the dean of the MU School of Medicine. “Also, he is very connected to the community in Springfield. So he is a perfect fit for the position.”

When he’s not busy in Springfield, Costley enjoys working on his family’s 180 acres in Monett. He builds fences and clears brush. He has restored habitat for wild turkey and quail. His latest project is planting milkweed that sustains butterflies and other pollinators. His two granddaughters love those butterflies.

“They live in Monett,” Costley said of his grandchildren. “How wonderful is that?”