Former Chairman Reflects on Evolution of Shriners Children’s Lexington
Warren Hopkins didn’t have a crystal ball, but he and his fellow board members could see the vision for the future of the Lexington Shriners Medical Center.
It was 2010, and Warren, a longtime attorney from Murray, Kentucky, and member of Rizpah Temple, had just been elected chairman of the Board of Governors for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Lexington.
The economy was slowly climbing out of a recession. Healthcare was changing rapidly and inpatient care was transitioning to outpatient services across the country.
“We kept seeing changes in the hospital, and not just our hospital. We kept seeing changes in the way treatment was being administered for children in healthcare,” Warren said. “We were actually doing such an efficient job that many surgeries that once required a lot of time and a lot of recovery time were mostly going to outpatient. And we had very few kids staying overnight.”
The decision was made to move the orthopedic medical center from the Richmond Road location, and change the model of care from an inpatient facility to an ambulatory surgery center and outpatient clinic, with some additional service areas that include an on-site prosthetics lab, occupational and physical therapy services.
“I give Administrator Tony Lewgood full credit for developing this model. We worked together on that. But Tony had the vision and so did Chief of Staff Dr. Henry Iwinski,” Warren said.
Having a roadmap to the future wasn’t enough. Then began the hard work of helping others see that same vision. “I think I made at least two, if not three, trips to Tampa to make presentations in order to help convince the leaders that this was a good idea and a good approach,” Warren recalled.
Convincing Shriners at the 14 Shrine Centers supporting the Lexington medical center that this was the right path forward was also no small task, Warren said. “It's hard to get the centers affiliated with the hospitals to not be in love with the bricks and mortar. And I get it because they were coming there. We were having meetings there. We were interacting with the children. We were interacting with the doctors, and it's a good thing,” Warren said. “But it reaches a point in the law of diminishing returns, when you must change to better serve your constituents.”
The leadership was critical. The teamwork was unmatched. The partnership with UK Healthcare was mutually beneficial, Warren said. The transition was a success, he said, because the people were committed to the work and the mission, and doing what is best for the kids.
“I had never worked in a hospital environment where everybody was getting along, and I know there were some ups and downs, but there were also points to negotiate,” he said. “Everybody felt we came out with a win or the best situation possible when we got finished.”
Plans to build a new facility on the UK Healthcare Campus across from Kentucky Children’s Hospital were announced in 2012, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in 2015. Two years later, history was made. In April 2017, Shriners Hospitals for Children Medical Center — Lexington (now Shriners Children’s Lexington) opened at 110 Conn Terrace. The 110,000-square-foot medical center included modern upgrades to all clinical departments including Kentucky’s first EOS medical imaging system, 20 exam rooms in the specialty care clinic and two state-of-the-art surgical suites on the ground floor for convenient access by families. Three years later, the number of active patients had increased by almost 5,000.
Warren’s unwavering support of our evolution to this new model was instrumental in achieving our goals of a bright future.
Although Warren is quick to praise others involved in the process, Tony said the former chairman deserves praise for his steady leadership during his three-year term at the most critical juncture of the transition.
“Warren’s unwavering support of our evolution to this new model was instrumental in achieving our goals of a bright future,” Tony said. “Our current success of reaching more kids than ever before in our 96-year history is due to Warren and the board embracing this bold change for Lexington, becoming one of the first in the Shriners Children's system to do so.”
Warren has enjoyed his time in the fraternity that is celebrating 150 years, calling it some of the best years of his life. But don’t ask him exactly how long he has been a Shriner. “That's a good question,” he said with a laugh. “It goes back further than my memory.”
Now 65, Hopkins said it might not have been possible if not for an uncle who was a Shriner and a friend named Cliff Finney who helped him elevate through the ranks of Masonry and earn his fez.
“Cliff was on the board with the Lexington hospital years ago. He was a full member, and he wanted me to be an associate,” Warren said. “So my job was to drive him up there and back. And so I did that. I learned a lot about the hospital system. All that was a true experience. I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Warren remains impressed by the generosity of the fraternity and its members – a giving spirit that makes the healthcare system’s mission possible. He loved the end of every board meeting where members generously made donations and presented the fruits of their various fundraising efforts.
“I think our mission is special because we help families get the assistance they need,” he said. “This is possible because this group of men – and many ladies are involved as well – are focused on taking care of kids, because that's our future. We all know that.”
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