Colleagues and friends remember former Parkland Health & Hospital System CEO Ron J. Anderson, MD, as a devoted champion for the poor and underserved, a mentor, and an effective advocate for policies to support essential hospitals.
Anderson, who chaired the America’s Essential Hospitals board of directors in 1992 and served in various roles on the association and Essential Hospitals Institute boards until his retirement from the Dallas hospital in 2011, died of cancer Sept. 11.
“Ron will always be remembered for his commitment to helping the vulnerable,” said Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “His tireless efforts on behalf of the poor improved the health care of those in Texas and beyond, and his work will continue to impact health care for years to come.”
Anderson, a native of Chickasha, Oklahoma, gained national attention in 1985 for speaking out against patient dumping. His efforts led to the passage of indigent care legislation in Texas. Federal legislation, passed in 1986, banned the practice.
Advocating for patients didn’t stop there, said John Haupert, current president and CEO of Atlanta’s Grady Health System and Anderson’s chief operating officer for five years at Parkland.
“I learned from him volumes of knowledge—not just the facts of public health and public policy, but about how you go about advocating for people in need and how you accomplish getting legislation introduced and influencing the outcome, which he was a master at,” Haupert said. “I think with his passing there’s going to be a tremendous void, because he was the leading advocate in this country among safety net administrators for moving legislation and policy forward.”
Anderson was skilled at understanding federal and state health care laws, in particular those around Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments and upper payment limits. He used that knowledge to improve health care in Texas, Haupert said.
Anderson assumed the role of president and CEO at Parkland in 1982, after serving two years as medical director of Parkland’s emergency department and outpatient clinic and head of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Division of Internal Medicine.
During his tenure as CEO, the hospital expanded to include 12 local health care clinics, 12 school-based clinics, and an outreach program for the homeless which provided care to more than 20 homeless shelters in the Dallas County area.
In 2008, Anderson led the charge to gain approval for a new building to replace the current hospital and, after he stepped down as CEO, worked to secure funding for the building, which is now scheduled to open in mid-2015.
“Ron was the CEO here for 29 years, and this place has largely been shaped with his influence,” says Fred Cerise, MD, MPH, who in March succeeded Anderson as Parkland’s president and CEO. “Parkland is recognized as a premier safety net hospital across the country and people recognize Ron as being synonymous with Parkland.”
Parkland’s board has unanimously voted to erect a commemorative statue of Anderson in the new hospital building and to name the new hospital’s medical and surgical outpatient clinic after him.
Donations in Anderson’s memory may be made to the Parkland Foundation.