East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Launches Physician Leadership Program to Elevate Pediatric Care

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital partnered with Haslam to introduce a five-year physician leadership program aimed at enhancing physician leadership and fostering innovative solutions to competitive challenges.

July 9, 2024

Since 1937, Knoxville’s East Tennessee Children’s Hospital (ETCH) has been the cornerstone of pediatric healthcare in the region, delivering specialized care tailored to the unique needs of infants, children and teenagers. The independent and nonprofit 152-bed hospital is committed to delivering top-notch healthcare in a welcoming, family-centered environment, irrespective of background or financial status.

ETCH navigates unique business challenges as a non-profit and free-standing independent children’s hospital, one of 31 in the U.S. Success demands delivering the most advanced care while managing the payer mix and reimbursement rates for children’s care, the growth and consolidation of competitors and the challenges of attracting and keeping great staff. To attain such success, leaders must demonstrate dedication to the organization’s overall mission while actively developing skills to propel its advancement.

Comprehensive care for children necessitates collaboration across service areas to meet the medical, emotional and informational needs of children and their families. Hospital leadership partnered with Graduate and Executive Education (GEE) faculty from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business on a custom, one-year physician leadership program to drive organizational advancement, which welcomed its first cohort in April 2024.

Developing a One-of-a-Kind Program

This strategic collaboration between the hospital and Haslam is made possible with support from David Stevens, board chair for ETCH. “As the future of healthcare continues to evolve, it is crucial to continue to immerse our medical staff further in our shared leadership model — a model where administrative leaders and physician leaders work hand-in-hand,” he says. “It was an easy decision to pair these two distinguished institutions to work together to better prepare ETCH for its future.”

ETCH leadership and Jim Rosenberg, GEE director of corporate engagement, collaborated to develop the physician leadership program curriculum.

“We worked with the leadership team at Children’s Hospital to define what great physician leadership means in their organization,” Rosenberg says. “We then used our experience in physician education to design a one-year curriculum focused on those competencies. The experience is built around small group, highly participatory discussions that allow these physician leaders to explore the challenges that are most important to them, while making sure we work within their demanding schedules.”

“At ETCH, our success is predicated on attracting and retaining talented and nice pediatric physicians who want to practice medicine in this region,” says Matt Schaefer, president and CEO at ETCH. “Like all leaders, our physicians are responsible for leading teams, facilitating crucial conversations, understanding healthcare finance, and enabling change. This Physician Leadership Academy is specifically designed to build a practical set of leadership skills and we are proud to partner with the Haslam College of Business in this effort that will positively impact pediatric care and thought leadership across the region for years to come.”

Focused Curriculum, Small Cohort, Expert Faculty

The physician leadership program structure includes monthly sessions over the course of one year. The program serves a cohort of eight to 10 senior physician leaders each year, and roughly 40 key leaders across the five-year program.

Participants begin with a self-reflection to identify their areas of focus and intent around the core competencies to be covered in the program. They also craft a leadership vision for their respective areas of responsibility, drawing upon the knowledge acquired throughout the program. These service area leadership plans are discussed by the cohort and ETCH leadership, pooling insights to propel the organization forward.

Several faculty members with diverse industry and research experience deliver the program and enrich the overall experience offering a wide range of perspective and insight. In addition to Rosenberg, the team of award winning faculty includes Nancy Scott, director of leadership development programs, Sherry Thatcher, Regal Distinguished Professor, and Jim Reeve, professor emeritus.

Commitment to Excellence in Pediatric Care

Upon completion of the program, participants should exhibit increased confidence in the core competencies outlined in the curriculum, as well as deeper working relationships among participants, leading to a more cohesive and supportive network within the organization. Program stakeholders anticipate a noticeable shift in conversation among participants, characterized by shared language and frameworks as they learn to approach problems from new perspectives and articulate solutions more effectively.

“Our mission is to improve the health of children through exceptional, comprehensive, family-centered care, wellness, and education,” says Schaefer. “Providing leadership development opportunities for our physicians further equips them to positively impact that mission. ETCH believes in leading the way to healthy children and this novel collaboration is one of many ways we are choosing to lead in our region.”

About Haslam College of Business’ Graduate & Executive Education

At the master’s level, Haslam offers: the Haslam (full-time) MBA, Online MBA, Professional MBA, Executive MBA (Global Supply Chain, Healthcare Leadership, Strategic Leadership), Aerospace and Defense MBA, Physician Executive MBA, Master of Accountancy, Master of Science in Management and Human Resources, Master of Science in Marketing, Master of Science in Business Analytics, Master of Science in Business Analytics for Working Professionals, Master of Statistics, Master of Arts in Economics, Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Tri-Continent, Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Online and Master of Science in Business Cybersecurity. Doctoral program areas include accounting, business analytics and statistics, economics, finance, marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship and organizations and supply chain management. Haslam’s graduate supply chain programs are ranked No. 1 in North America by Gartner.

Haslam’s graduate and executive programs address real-world challenges through an interdisciplinary approach that supports development of analytical and leadership skills. Its faculty are industry thought leaders, seasoned practitioners and accomplished researchers who ensure the learning experience applies directly to each participant’s current and future career.

About East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital’s vision is “Leading the Way to Healthy Children.” ETCH is a free-standing, independent, not-for-profit pediatric health care system which serves the East Tennessee region. It is certified by the state of Tennessee as a Comprehensive Regional Pediatric Center.


Christie Knapper, Program Manager – Business Development, Graduate & Executive Education, cknappe1@utk.edu