July 20, 2007

Churchwell named Children’s Hospital CEO

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Kevin Churchwell, M.D.

Churchwell named Children’s Hospital CEO

Kevin B. Churchwell, M.D., a Nashville native, Vanderbilt-educated physician and nationally recognized pediatrician, has been named chief executive officer and executive director of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, effective immediately.

Churchwell, 45, has held the interim position since January, when he replaced the hospital's first CEO, Jim Shmerling, who left to become president and CEO of The Children's Hospital of Denver.

He says he is honored to be chosen to lead the Children's Hospital on a permanent basis.

“It's an incredible honor to be asked to do this extremely important job for Vanderbilt, for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, and for the city of Nashville,” Churchwell said. “Because I'm a native Nashvillian, it's even more of an honor,” he said, adding that he has learned a great deal while he has led the hospital in an interim capacity.

“It's given me the opportunity to see other aspects of the hospital that I had not had an opportunity to be a part of, such as our advocacy initiatives, working with our partners in and outside of our hospital, Friends of Children's Hospital, Junior League and our community pediatricians, and the budget process – all of the extremely important aspects that I had the opportunity to become more familiar with very quickly,” Churchwell said. “It also furthered an opportunity to meet our staff — physicians and nurses and ancillary staff as well — getting a chance to hear their views about what we're doing and to see their commitment to the hospital and to our mission. We all share the same view, that we are developing a world class institution that is known nationally for the care we provide and the research we do,” he said.

“I've had the honor of working with our staff for 12 years now. My work the past six months has reinforced my opinion of what a wonderful staff we have, and of their dedication. I have not met anyone who is not willing to go the extra mile to make us great.”

Churchwell, a 1983 graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a 1987 graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, completed his pediatric residency and clinical fellowship at Children's Hospital Boston. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1995. He has been listed among the “Best Doctors in America” since 2004 and among “America's Top Pediatricians” since 2005.

As CEO, he will be responsible for the hospital's day-to-day operations, financial performance, development, advocacy, community relations and strategic planning. He will report directly to Martin Sandler, M.B., Ch.B, associate vice chancellor for Hospital Affairs. Prior to being appointed to the interim position at Children's Hospital, Churchwell served as chief of staff; medical director of Pediatric Critical Care Services; transport director for Children's Hospital; medical director of the Children's Health and Injury Prevention Program; and director of the Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship Program.

Sandler said the extensive national search looked at candidates throughout the United States and resulted in four outstanding and qualified finalists with a breadth of experience in managing children's hospitals.

“After an extensive interview process, clearly Kevin was the best choice to be the new CEO of Children's Hospital,” Sandler said. “We are delighted that he has accepted the position. He is both an outstanding administrator and physician educator. In his new capacity he will be able to lead the Children's Hospital to its next levels of achievement and work closely with both the hospital and community-based physicians. Kevin will also serve as an outstanding advocate for Children's Hospital locally, regionally and nationally.”

Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, echoed Sandler's praise.

“Our Children's Hospital has been consistently recognized as one of the nation's best, and we need a strong and able leader to help us maintain our momentum.

“We have invested millions of dollars and countless hours into building the world's best center for the care of children and their families. Strong leadership is key. Kevin has proven he is the person for this job,” Jacobson said.

Born and raised in East Nashville, where his parents still reside, Churchwell is a member of a well-known Nashville family, many of whom have ties to Vanderbilt. His father, Robert, was the first African-American reporter for a major southern metropolitan newspaper, the Nashville Banner. His mother, Mary, taught for 30 years in the Nashville public school system. He has four siblings — his twin, Keith Churchwell, M.D., and brother Andre Churchwell, M.D., are both Vanderbilt cardiologists; Robert Jr. is an assistant principal at Gra-Mar Middle School in Nashville; and Marisa Churchwell Smith is a special education teacher in Augusta, Ga. He is married to Gloria Respress-Churchwell and they have four children: Katherine, 14; Alexandria, 12; Arthur, 10; and John, 8.

Some of Churchwell's colleagues expressed their support this week.

“It's a new and exciting chapter for Children's Hospital,” said John Brock III, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Urology and surgeon-in-chief of Children’s Hospital. “Kevin has garnered the confidence of both the medical and administrative staff in showing his leadership for Children's Hospital. He is very aware of the community that he works in and the importance of Children's Hospital in the Vanderbilt family. He has shown that he can be a tremendous advocate for children's care in this community.

“With his leadership I know we will take the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt to new and previously unattained heights. I am honored to be able to work with him.”

Brent Polk, M.D., interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and the Vanderbilt Digestive Diseases Research Center, agrees. “Kevin is truly committed to the hospital, our patients and to Vanderbilt. He's poised to take us to an even stronger position in clinical care, research and education. Things are going to be great moving forward.”

Churchwell is known for his calm demeanor and for his strong moral compass. “Integrity and honesty just exude from him,” said one of his Vanderbilt colleagues, Neal Patel, M.D., in an earlier VUMC Reporter article.

Those are just a couple of the qualities that made Churchwell the leading candidate for the CEO slot, says Monroe Carell Jr., former executive chairman of Central Parking Corp., and the hospital's namesake.

Carell, who served on the selection committee, said Churchwell was his choice early on. “I don't think we could have made a better choice. He has a clear understanding of the medical side of this job, but also a strong sensitivity to the patient, the public, and the volunteers who are so important to this hospital.

“The job requires many talents, and Kevin has them all. It's a business position, more than a medical one, but Kevin's previous work with physicians, nurses, patients and their families will only enhance his success. He will do a wonderful job,” Carell said.