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The Impact of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Goes Beyond Patient Care

The following feature is part of the most recent issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine. Click here to see the full magazine.

It’s hard to miss Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s giant rooftop heart towering over the landscape of Downtown Memphis. It’s an appropriate symbol for the facility it adorns, as below it, medical practitioners are helping children, saving lives and giving families hope every day.
Most Mid-South residents are familiar with the outstanding quality of care at the hospital, as are industry experts – this year, U.S. News & World Report again recognized Le Bonheur as one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals for the sixth consecutive year. However, behind all of the excellent patient care, the hospital is putting Memphis on the map for many other reasons, including recruiting top talent, spearheading crucial research projects and significantly boosting the local economy.
“In May, we commissioned an economic impact study from University of Memphis. The bottom line was Le Bonheur contributes $1.38 billion to the Memphis economy,” said Jon McCullers, pediatrician-in-chief at Le Bonheur and chair of the Department of Pediatrics for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). “That’s more than double the budget of the city government, for example. So it’s a lot of impact, and that impact has been accelerating during the last four years.”
McCullers attributes that acceleration in part to the talent he’s been working hard to recruit in partnership with Le Bonheur President and CEO Meri Armour. Through their efforts, Le Bonheur has added about 85 new researchers and scientists, each of which has a far-reaching effect.
“For instance, every time we bring in somebody like Dr. David Hains, well, David is one person, but he hires five or six people to work in his lab, then we have to hire several new nurses to work in his clinic, then we have to hire medical assistants,” McCullers said. “We also had to build new buildings – we built a new parking deck, a new faculty office building, a new outpatient center in the east – so that’s a huge amount of capital investment. And those are all jobs; people have to work in those buildings, so it’s a multiplier. So while we can say we’ve got this one incredible individual; meanwhile, as that multiplier cascades through the city, it really does make a huge impact.”

McCullers recruited Hains in 2013 from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The pediatric nephrologist treats kids with kidney disease through both clinical work and research, with the ultimate goal of identifying predictive indicators to facilitate the development of individualized treatment platforms. Hains also is the director of the hospital’s new Biorepository and Integrative Genomics initiative, which collects and stores consenting patients’ DNA for future research and studies – a rarity in the national realm of children’s hospitals.
Hains said the distinctive “hidden gem” quality of Memphis sold him on the transition, as did the depth of research and commitment at Le Bonheur. “I was pleasantly surprised when I came down to Memphis. I was expecting it to be a concrete jungle, but it’s so green and nice, the houses and architecture are so beautiful, the food is fantastic, and there are so many cool hot spots in the city,” he said. “Also,
I’ve been in lots of children’s hospitals. They often feel like sterile asylums. Le Bonheur has a real warm, hometown touch to it – that’s Meri Armour’s work. And everybody here has rallied around the Le Bonheur message of improving care for kids in Memphis, and everyone goes the extra mile to make sure that happens.”
Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Joan Han is another one of McCullers’ recruits. Formerly from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, Han came to Le Bonheur in 2014 as the new director of the hospital’s Pediatric Obesity Program. Her work has a ripple effect on the Memphis community through its three-pronged approach: a multidisciplinary Healthy Lifestyle Clinic, which treats obese children and adolescents with medicine, nutrition, fitness and behavioral health counseling; Han’s own research in the area; and the Healthy Lifestyle Network community outreach initiative, which partners with schools and organizations throughout Shelby County in educational efforts.
“Many people here are relying on fast food because they either don’t know how to cook or they don’t have time to cook, so we’re offering cooking programs for adults, families and children at all different levels,” Han said. “Meanwhile, we’re trying to really assess the current health status in Memphis. In the clinic, we see people with specific disorders as well as people with no specific genetic problems. We take care of people from all parts of the spectrum.”

McCullers, himself an influenza virus researcher, says the more talent he brings to Le Bonheur, the more the Mid-South will benefit by attracting even more professionals and national recognition and by generating more community health benefits and, ultimately, more jobs.
“When we first started focusing on recruiting and retaining top talent, we had a small faculty and Le Bonheur really wasn’t well-known nationally.” he said. “Once we started getting some top people on board, now it’s a different dynamic. People see the quality, the growth and the positive energy. Now, some of the top people in the country are calling to learn more about Le Bonheur. It’s very rewarding to know that we have a clear national reputation and people want to come be part of what we are building at Le Bonheur and UTHSC.”
Story by: Erinn Figg
Photos by: Troy Glasgow

Posted: 11/29/2016 1:36:16 PM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Attraction, Bonheur, Children's, Crossroads, Development, Economic, Hospital, Impact, Le, Memphis, Talent

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (