The balancing act of a children's hospital president, CEO and surgeon-in-chief

When Memphis, Tenn.-based Le Bonheur Children's Hospital President and CEO Trey Eubanks, MD, connected with Becker's, he had just come from the OR.

Dr. Eubanks, who is also a professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, has been with Le Bonheur Children's since 2002. He became the hospital's surgeon-in-chief in 2015 and has maintained that role through becoming the hospital's interim president last March and permanent president in December. 

It's the multiple hats that Dr. Eubanks wears that have made him such a successful hospital leader. While Dr. Eubanks has stepped back on the amount of surgeries he performs under his new role as president, he has relied on the help of two associate surgeons to keep the ball rolling and address any issues that arise.

"A lot of the surgical faculty know me well, and most of the medical faculty know me well," he told Becker's. "That gives me a familiarity with them, which allows them to share with me problems that they have. They know I understand the importance of some of the decisions that we may make operationally, which can impact their ability to do research or see patients. Because I have been on the front lines, and I appreciate that, I kind of speak to them from a level of understanding that they really I think appreciate and respect."

Dr. Eubanks also credited his leadership skills to the opportunities he was given by a former Le Bonheur Children's CEO when he was a young faculty member to help lead teams and be hands-on in fixing some of the hospital's larger issues.

It's those leadership skills that Dr. Eubanks has acquired over the years that he has channeled into a focus on industrywide post-pandemic challenges like employee retention since becoming the hospital's permanent president more than six months ago. 

"There is less loyalty," he said. "That's not the fault of the associates or the doctors. It's partly our fault as leaders, so we have to earn that back. It takes five minutes to make a bad impression. Good impressions last a lifetime. It takes a long time to build that respect and loyalty back and it's not going to happen in six months or a year."

Building back that loyalty and trust comes with improvements to communication and reminding employees that what they do every day is important and saves lives. 

For Le Bonheur Children's employees who might not be on the front lines, but instead work in a clinic, lab, technician or radiology department, connecting them with patients who have had a positive experience at the hospital has been key to show them that their work makes a big difference in children's lives.

However, the biggest challenge facing children's hospitals at the moment: behavioral health. While Dr. Eubanks believes the uptick in behavioral problems for children is likely related to the pandemic, it's something the healthcare industry can't ignore. 

Since the pandemic, Le Bonheur's has dedicated psychologists in all of its primary care clinics to help screen the mental health of patients who come through the hospital.

"Now we're actually hiring a whole division chief of behavioral health and faculty that are therapists, psychologists specifically, to help get our patients that we see at least started on a diagnosis and towards treatment and get them placed," he said. "We've got to be speaking up for kids, because we're oftentimes the only voice that's out there."

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