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VIProfile: Keith Goodwin



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Story by Gay Lyons

In his 42 years in healthcare, Keith Goodwin, President/CEO of East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, says he has spent only two years in adult healthcare--and that’s just fine with him. “I like working with kids,” he said. “Kids are different. They’re not little adults. Their physiologic conditions change quickly. Kids are developing and growing. You have to be prepared to deal with it. Our doctors have additional training. They are schooled and prepared to take care of children.”

“When medications are developed, they’re not developed for children,” he explained. “We have to make adjustments with meds.”

“If you are part of an adult system, you spend a lot of time explaining how kids are different,” he continued. “We can take care of kids from birth to 21 without the distractions of a system of adult healthcare. We need specialized equipment. In adult healthcare you have basically one bed size; we have eight different sizes of beds. Our blood pressure cups range from the size of your pinky to adult size. It creates more cost and more complexity.”

Goodwin’s career in healthcare got started while he was a college student in his hometown, Columbus, Ohio. “I was [supposed to be] a six week temporary employee,” he said. “I started as a part-time housekeeper; I became a part-time manager working 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday. I went back to school on Monday morning.”

After graduation from Ohio State in 1977, Goodwin advanced from entry-level management to department manager to entry-level administration--and also attended graduate school. He was at Children’s Hospital in Columbus from 1975-1996. “I was recruited to Austin, Texas, to regionalize a small children’s hospital,” he said. “I spent three years there before returning to Columbus where I was President/CEO from 1999-2005.”

In 2005, he started a business serving as interim CEO but didn’t find it to his liking. “As an interim CEO, you’re a finger in the dike kind of person,” he said. “You can’t really make changes.”

In 2007, Goodwin was recruited to replace Bob Koppel, who was retiring as President/CEO of East Tennessee Children’s Hospital after 31 years. He and his wife Dianne have three children and six grandchildren, all of whom live in Ohio.

“My first priority was stabilizing our financial situation,” he said. “I read the minutes of every board meeting since 1937. Embedded in everything I read was the need for this community to support this institution--and they do. It may be a dollar here or there or something more significant. We are so blessed.”

“The size of our community creates an intimacy,” he continued. “The kids we have the privilege to care for are the kids we’re going to see at church and at school. In a relatively small community, people are connected in so many ways. That’s a good thing.” “If you’re new to town you have to understand how connected everyone is,” he observed.

Goodwin lists services that have been improved or expanded: “We’ve improved quality, especially neonatal services. We’ve started a sleep medicine program; there’s a tremendous need for it. We have a cleft lip/ palate program. We opened our first urgent care center this year. Three or four years ago we became the regional genetic center.”

“We’ve increased outpatient services,” he continued. “More and more is being done not in a hospital but in offices. A tonsillectomy has changed from a four day to a four hour procedure.
“We’ve got our toe in the water in telemedicine,” he said. “We’re a regional center so repetitive visits are not very efficient.

We need to make it easier for families--not from their homes but from local offices.”
“This hospital started as East Tennessee Crippled Children’s Hospital during the polio epidemic,” said Goodwin. “Now we’re a leading children’s hospital in the country.

This community should be very proud. I think people think we’re where you go when you’re most sick or injured. That’s not true. We’re here for everybody.”

“It’s a huge region we serve,” he said. “We have staff on call at UT Trauma Center. Often a child will start there and move here. We have staff in hospitals throughout the region. If the child’s needs are beyond their capacity, they can come here or we’ll go get them.”

“Kids bounce back,” said Goodwin. “I find joy and renewal in how kids handle things.”

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