Trekking to Illinois with his wife of 40 years, Diane, to see their first grandchild, Charlie; hopscotching across South Florida in their fifth-wheel RV; and spending time at the family’s lake house in the mountains of Western North Carolina are just a few items at the top of Nemours’ departing CEO’s post-retirement agenda. And that’s just the first two months!
Roger A. Oxendale, MBA, president of Nemours Children’s Hospital at Lake Nona Medical City in Orlando and a senior vice president with Nemours, will officially retire on Jan. 1, 2016. Not shabby for the hospital executive who arrived in Central Florida in April 2010, soon after the foundation was poured for the new $400 million integrated pediatric health campus.
“Within less than three years, we’ve brought this hospital from nothing to clearly on our way to being one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals,” said Oxendale, who opened Nemours on Oct. 22, 2012. “We’re very proud of being considered a major pediatric provider and referral for children throughout the world.”
Since opening, Nemours has treated children and their families from every state in the union, every continent except Antarctica, and almost every county in Florida. Last December, Leapfrog Group named Nemours among nine children’s hospitals in the country as Top Hospitals. Nemours represented the only children’s hospital in the South to earn the elite recognition.
“This great award is so important because it features a focus on the demonstration of excellence in safety and quality,” said Oxendale. “Safety and quality is so very important as we treat our children, along with their families.”
In 2013, Nemours achieved LEED Gold Certification, the only hospital in Central Florida and only one of three children’s hospitals in the nation to do so.
“As hospital and community leaders, we need to be focused on how our buildings are impacting our environment,” he said. “As importantly is taking advantage of the natural light and healing gardens as we seek to provide the best healing environment for our patients.”
Oxendale’s road to Orlando began at Clarion University, where he earned an MBA and is a distinguished alumnus. He served as a senior financial executive with the Allegheny Health Education and Research Foundation, and a senior audit manager with Coopers and Lybrand. In 1995, he joined the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as CFO. Five years later, he moved to the COO post, where he helped establish Children’s Community Pediatrics, the largest pediatric and adolescent primary care network in western Pennsylvania. In 2005, he was named CEO of the children’s hospital, which U.S. World & News Report has consistently named among the nation’s 10 best children’s hospitals. In 2008, he was appointed president of the UPMC Foundation concurrently with his CEO post to more effectively align the hospital’s funding needs with foundation initiatives.
Oxendale, oversaw the construction of a new and technologically advanced 10-acre pediatric hospital campus in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood that opened in May 2009. That hospital also received LEED certification and with its implementation of the Computerized Physician Order Entry System (CPOE) and other technological advances was named KLAS’ top digital children’s hospital in the nation. He also garnered international healthcare experience with his involvement in UPMC via projects in Qatar, Dubai, Ireland, Ukraine and China, and has become a nationally recognized healthcare executive as a board member of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI).
Oxendale’s milestone achievements laid the groundwork for him to successfully recruit world-class talent to Central Florida. Famously, there’s the story of Board Chair John Lord tossing a blank legal pad to prime candidates to design their own dream departments, such as Stephen Frick, MD, now surgeon-in-chief and chair of the Department of Surgery for Nemours Children’s Hospital; Terri Finkel, MD, now pediatrician-in-chief, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and chief scientific officer for Nemours Children’s Hospital; and her husband, Richard Finkel, MD, now division chief of neurology at Nemours Children’s Hospital, who in 2013 conducted the first targeted drug trial for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).
“I remember when Dr. Cartland Burns talked to the board about being convinced someone would develop a really great bowel and intestinal failure program in Central Florida and he said: ‘I want that to be me.’” said Oxendale. Burns was named division chief of general and thoracic surgery at Nemours Children's Hospital.
“One of the most attractive recruiting tools is that a position here is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to impact the pediatric healthcare of Central Florida and beyond,” said Oxendale. “That’s been a very common theme. Most leaders we recruited, especially physician leaders, have come from very well-established children’s hospitals throughout the country. Dr. Burns’ kind of enthusiasm and focus is indicative of what brought physicians here from many parts of the country.”
Beyond his dedication to pediatric healthcare, Oxendale consistently supports the communities in which he serves, a practice he plans to continue from his Belle Isle home.
“My future plans are still developing, but I have a specific interest in leadership development, particularly with young and upcoming individuals not only in healthcare, but also in the business world overall,” said Oxendale, a longtime volunteer leader for the Boy Scouts of America in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Central Florida. “I do a fair amount of informal mentoring at Nemours and through other connections, but I also have a strong interest in the youth of our country. As we continue to move forward as a country, it’s really important to have business and community leaders focusing on how we can continue to rethink and rebuild programs. For example, I believe we can better support our local schools and youth organizations. I’m passionate about it, and believe as a society, we have an obligation to not rely on the traditional way programs have worked and been funded.”
Oxendale is winding down his time at Nemours by staying busier than ever. He’s transitioning position of president to Dana Nicholson Bledsoe in late summer, while also overseeing a dozen pediatric primary care clinics, four pediatric specialty clinics, and six pediatric urgent care clinics and continuing to serve as senior vice president.
The father of three grown daughters, Oxendale stays fit by camping, backpacking and running. He’s looking ahead at RV trips to the west coast, with stops in the Rockies.
“Starting a hospital from scratch was challenging,” Oxendale admitted. “It required bringing together everyone’s best thinking as we built teams among people who haven’t historically worked together, and making sure we had all our policies and procedures in place. As we continue to grow, the challenging is keeping on top of having the right resources here at the right time to serve children and their families, both in terms of clinical expertise with our great physician leaders, and also with our nurse and staff at the bedside working directly with our patients.”
Nemours Children’s Hospital: http://www.nemours.org/welcome.html