Gregg Gentry

Champions of Health Care

In our third annual edition of Champions of Health Care, Edge magazine received nearly 200 recommendations from the public about health care providers, administrators and volunteers who are making health care better in Chattanooga.

From among those nominations, a panel of judges comprised of top leaders from the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Medical Society and each of Chattanooga's three major hospital systems — Erlanger Health System, CHI Memorial Hospital and Parkridge Health System — picked nine winners in eight different classifications of health care.

The Champions of Health Care award winners this year have tackled major community health problems, started or promoted programs to better coordinate care and expanded initiatives for wellness and disease detection. Others are recognized for new approaches, strong leadership and simple acts of kindness during their lifetimes of achievement and service. In a variety of volunteer and professional roles across many of Chattanooga's major health care institutions, the honorees have distinguished themselves and the community for improving the health of individuals and Chattanooga as a whole.

This year's Champions of Health Care will be honored at an awards luncheon at The Chattanoogan on Wednesday, September 5.

When Kevin Spiegel arrived at Erlanger in 2013, the area's largest hospital was struggling.

Over the past five years, the turnaround has been well-documented and the expansion and new direction of Erlanger has caught the attention of the medical industry around the country.

Administrative Excellence Award

Honors a health care administrator whose performance, care and leadership are considered exemplary by patients and peers

Accomplishments: As a 29-year veteran at Erlanger Health System and the the chief of staff to hospital CEO Kevin Spiegel, Gentry has aided the turnaround of Chattanooga’s biggest hospital and served in key roles on human resources, marketing, public relations, development, government relations and payor relations.

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Gregg Gentry

As with all changes in leadership, the new regime came in with new ideas. And new names and faces to fill a variety of spots.

A key cog in the new direction under Spiegel has been Gregg Gentry, the chief administrative officer and Spiegel's chief of staff.

New direction aside, Gentry is a familiar face among those at Erlanger Health System. He's been with the hospital since 1989, and has been a steady bridge from the recovery to the steam-rolling success under Spiegel.

"Both professionally and personally, Kevin Spiegel has been the ultimate mentor for me," Gentry says. "Since arriving in Chattanooga, Kevin has created an environment encouraging all team members to live up to their potential. Kevin leads by example and has the intuitiveness to see more in people and their abilities than they might see in themselves."

Gentry credits his boss for making sure "everyone is striving to better themselves and push toward doing what is right for all our patients and those we serve."

For those that know him, the credit-deflection is common for Gentry, who was selected as this year's Champion of Health Care administrator of the year.

Gentry has worn a variety of hats at Erlanger in his 29 years with the hospital and continues to be involved in an array of duties. He works closely with Spiegel on strategy and direction for the organization and is directly responsible for a number of business arms at Erlanger including human resources, marketing, public relations and development.

He said that working with the talented team at Erlanger was the best part of his daily work.

"Each day I'm surrounded by colleagues who are healing and caring for others and, over the course of time, advancing health care," he says.

Like almost every medical facility, there are miracles and life-changing tragedies happening in the halls every day. From delivering a baby or delivering the news that the tumor is malignant, the tears flow often at Erlanger regardless of the circumstances.

But there is a small army of folks working behind the business scenes to help support the folks with M.D. or R.N. or any of the other fancy, life-changing abbreviations on their white coats.

And Gentry is helping to lead that charge, which becomes more and more difficult as regulations continue to evolve around the medical industry.

"Health care is a highly regulated industry that is rapidly changing," he says. "This ever-changing landscape of regulations is challenging and difficult, and at times distracting from improving patient care and the overall patient experience."

The business of medicine has been a lifetime work for Gentry, and it's one that has — like the industry's regulations — continued to change. And with that change has come a realization that helping others get better has become a two-way exchange.

Gentry grew up in a small town in Alabama and earned both his undergraduate and Master of Business Administration degrees at the University of Alabama.

"Initially (coming to Erlanger) was the next step in my career," he recalls. "Today, it is much more than a career; it is a passion.

"Working for an organization that provides high-quality care to all residents in our region, and has a mission of compassionately caring for people, has become an important part of my life and has resulted in me becoming a better person. After walking these hospital halls for nearly three decades, I continue to be amazed at the dedication of our associates and the exceptional care provided across all services. Working in health care lends itself to positively impacting others and building a legacy. I want people to always trust and realize that when they come to Erlanger Health System, their lives matter."

So, those three decades — a lifetime in today's professional world of job-hopping and grass-is-always-greener viewpoints — have come and gone.

That's a lot of stress and a lot of life and death.

Through it all Gentry has worked in various roles, doing what he can to make the next day, the next chapter, the next goal better and more attainable.

Spiegel gets a lot of the credit for the Erlanger's success, but Gentry's contributions — often in the shadows — should never be overlooked.

As Erlanger continues to expand and shift its focus into technologically ground-breaking areas ranging from the children's facility to the commitment of being one of the foremost heart-care centers in America, Gentry's presence has never been more important.

Or impactful.

"If you talk to Gregg, he always mentions the word legacy," says Jed Mescon, Erlanger's marketing vice president who nominated Gentry for the Champions of Health Care award. "Gregg is the first to tell you, the consequences of what we do now will outlive us."