Freeman Health System and Pittsburg State University Continue Strong Partnership

(Pittsburg, KS) – Sealed by a handshake between Freeman Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker and Pittsburg State University (PSU) Athletic Director Jim Johnson, a long-term and flourishing partnership between Freeman Health System and Pittsburg State University will continue through 2028.

At a press conference held at Robert W. Plaster Center on Thursday, August 3, a new five-year extension was inked between these two titan entities. As part of the agreement, Freeman physicians and athletic trainers will continue to provide the region’s most comprehensive sports medicine care to PSU student-athletes.

“We value Freeman Health System’s long-term relationship with Pittsburg State University, and we’re truly excited to renew the designation of Freeman Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine as the official sports medicine partner of PSU athletics,” Paula Baker said. “We’re not just part of the PSU Sports Med team, we are The Sports Med team.”

Freeman currently provides PSU’s team orthopaedic specialist, Dr. Michael Zufuta, and official team physician, Dr. Ryan Sorell. Over the years, Freeman has supported many PSU projects, including the installation of new turf at Carnie Smith Stadium, the opening of the Freeman Health System at Lecture Hall in the Garfield Weede Building, an on-site physical therapy clinic as well as annual contributions to the Silverback Fund, which provide scholarships that help PSU recruit and retain athletes. The partnership between the health system and university was established in April 2015. At that time, PSU had one athletic trainer covering 13 sports and 400 student-athletes.

“This partnership is good for Pittsburg State, good for Freeman, and good for the community at large,” Baker said. “It’s truly a win-win situation for everyone.”

Freeman’s partnership with PSU doesn’t end with athletics, but also makes a positive impact on the school’s nursing program and other key areas.

“The partnership with Pittsburg State is one that doesn’t exist in very many places,” Johnson said. “For us to now know and have the comfort of knowing that we can provide world-class healthcare to our student-athletes for the next five years and beyond is a big day for us. We’ve come a long way, and we could not have even remotely gotten close to accomplishing what we’ve done without the partnership with Freeman Health System.”

Dr. Zafuta spoke about the strong relationships that have been established and grown during the Freeman and PSU partnership.

“We’ve talked about the things that Freeman’s provided — they are amazing things, and they are all necessary things and beneficial things — the sports medicine media room, the nutritional support, the turf; those are all awesome and they are great, but at the end of the day they are just things. And I think where Freeman is unique is that that they’re committed to people and relationships — I see that every day,” he said. “Freeman is very good at putting people into positions to succeed. And if we succeed, then the student-athlete succeeds. Freeman brings in the people who committed to the community, who make not just Pitt State better but Pittsburg better.”

Aside from Freeman’s continued partnership with PSU, the Joplin-based health system has a sizeable and growing footprint in Southeast Kansas. Already established in town over the last five years are clinics dedicated to orthopaedics and sports medicines, internal medicine and family primary care, as well as a surgical center and a specialty clinic, not to mention oncology services. Outside Pittsburg, Freeman has established clinics offering a variety of health-related services in Riverton, Baxter Springs, Columbus, Cherokee, Parsons, Frontenac, Girard and Arma.

About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center — the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services — as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit


Kevin McClintock, Media Relations Coordinator
Freeman Health System

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