Dr. Ron Anderson - 1987
Dr. Ron Anderson is the president and chief executive officer of the Parkland Hospital for Dallas County and the primary teaching hospital for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.
Working his way through college pumping gas and stocking grocery store shelves, he attended Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma and Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts in Chickasha for one year each. He then left for the school of pharmacy at Southwestern Oklahoma’s Pharmacy school. In 1968, the year before he graduated, he applied to the University of Oklahoma’s School of Medicine.
He completed his internship and residency programs at Parkland between 1973 and 1975. It was during Anderson’s internships that he met his future wife, Sue Ann Blakely, who was working as a nurse in the emergency room. She remembers meeting Anderson the night a sick, distraught, angry, non-responsive woman came to the emergency room and no one seemed to want to treat her.
The patient was placed in a room and a few minutes later Sue Ann heard a man talking to the patient as if he was talking to his mother or to royalty. It was Ron. She said, “That’s how he treats all his patients.” On their first date they took a stroll around Turtle Creek at Dallas, Texas, and fed the ducks. They were married in her hometown of Madill, Oklahoma in 1975, the year Anderson was appointed chief resident of internal medicine at Parkland. From there, his career skyrocketed.
Simultaneously, he supervised medical care in the large out-patient clinic and the emergency room and headed the division of ambulatory care in the department of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He also served as an assistant dean for clinical affairs at the medical school. He rose quickly, and few people at Parkland or the health science center were surprised. “He’s not only extremely bright and dedicated and works hard, he also has the know-how to recognize a problem and organize an attack on it with a good end result,” says Dr. Charles Baxter, director of the Skin Transplant Center for Burns at Parkland.
In 1982 Dr. Charles Mullins, who was then chief executive officer of Parkland, took the job of executive vice chancellor of health affairs at the University of Texas system in Austin. Dallas Country Hospital District board members, Mullins and the president of the health science center talked to Anderson about the CEO job. At first, Anderson thought, “I was ambivalent about taking it. I enjoyed being a physician, being in the emergency room. I also wasn’t sure I’d be cut out for it.” But he decided to take the chance and has been at the helm since January 1982. “Now I think it’s the best decision I ever made,” he says. “We’ve been able to improve in ways we had no power to change before.”
In talking about his professional accomplishments, he usually puts curbing patient-dumping at the top of the list. As a member of the statewide Task Force on Indigent Health Care, Anderson was instrumental in getting package of four bills on indigent health care passed on by the state Legislature this year. One of the bills is aimed at outlawing patient-dumping and requires the State Board of Health to adopt minimum standards governing patient transfers.
Since October 1983, The Dallas Country Hospital District Board of Managers, which operates Parkland, has had its own policy on transfers that Anderson says has discouraged financially motivated transfers and improved patient safety. The number of transferred emergency patients who died while in transit or arrived in unstable condition has been reduced, he says.
Other accomplishments, in Anderson’s eyes, include establishing the pediatric trauma center, one of the first, if not the first, in the country designed to care specifically for seriously injured children, and the North Central Texas poison Center which is staffed by specialists who can tell people how to treat virtually any type of poisoning or drug overdose. As for the future, Anderson is looking forward to the launching in late 1988 or early 1989 of the University Medical Center Hospital, a private 159-bed hospital that will be physically connected and managed by Parkland.
In talking or writing about his goals for Parkland, Anderson always uses words like innovative, dynamic, and challenging, which make him sound like a cheerleader running a medical pep rally. “We must think not in terms of why something can’t be done, but how it can be done better and often in a less costly fashion,” he writes in a recent CEO report. Ron is a gradate of Chickasha High School and received his pharmacy degree from Southwestern Oklahoma Sate University in 1969. He graduated from the School of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in 1973. Ron and Sue Ann have three children: Sarah Elizabeth, Daniel Jerrod, and John Charles.