Glenn Robinson saw Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center move across town to Interstate 35, merge twice and become part of what is now Baylor Scott & White Health, a recognized healthcare force regionally and statewide.
Now he and wife Rhonda want to see more of their grandchildren.
Robinson announced Friday he will retire as president of Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center, effective in early July, ending a 12-year stay with Hillcrest and capping a 35-year career in the health care field that included leadership roles in hospitals from Oregon to Alabama.
Since accepting the position as president, “there have been so many moments that made me very proud of each and every member of our team and the amazing way they have cared for our community,” Robinson said in a statement.
He went on to praise the hospital’s “frontline heroes,” especially as they continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic locally.
For the next year, Robinson said he and Rhonda will spend time with grandchildren in Charleston, South Carolina, the Houston suburb of Katy and in Waco.
At 65, Robinson said he and his family will remain in Waco.
“I must admit I’m excited about this next season in my life,” he said.
Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said his respect for Robinson has grown as the two leaders talked almost daily in their collaborative efforts to combat the coronavirus. He said Robinson is among the best at leading, communicating and inspiring confidence in others, qualities that have well served the community and the health care entity he leads.
“I’m still trying to deal with this news,” Deaver said of his phone call from Robinson on Friday informing him of his decision.
Robinson, in a phone interview, called COVID-19 a game-changing illness, “a defining moment for our generation,” and one that will lead to some long-term changes for the better.
“It is causing us to pause, and not everything coming out of the situation is bad,” he said. “We are learning new ways to adapt, learning new ways to deliver health care. We’ve known for some time that the most cost effective approach to care is through video visits, e-visits. One sector of the population, that being my generation, has taken longer to adapt and convert. But we’ve seen a decade of evolution in about eight weeks. We have an incentive to learn to Zoom with our doctor, how efficient it is and far less time consuming. This pandemic will change the world forever, and in some ways for good.”
Asked about the former Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center campus sitting vacant in North Waco, near Herring Avenue, Robinson said stakeholders remain confident it could become a setting for mental health services.
Still, damage to the state’s revenue sources inflicted by COVID-19 could cripple short-term efforts to repurpose the facility, Robinson said.
Robinson will remain with Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center through the fiscal year. He expects a search to start soon for his successor.
Philip Patterson, president of Ascension Providence in Waco, said he is gratified the collaboration between Hillcrest, Ascension Providence and city and county leaders has mitigated the damage inflicted by COVID-19.
“The disease has not ravaged our community as it has others,” he said.
Of Robinson he said, “I’m going to miss him. I’ve enjoyed the many community projects we faced in partnership. We spoke weekly, even more often during the pandemic, and I enjoyed his personality, his making sure you knew you had his attention and his focus. I will miss that the most.”
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said he also learned Friday of Robinson’s retirement. He said his contributions to health care have been profound.
“He’s been a great addition to our community,” Felton said. “I learned to bounce things off him because he always had a good perspective on things pertaining to our community. His are big shoes to fill.”
Waco businessman Gordon Swanson, a member of the Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center board, said Robinson brought “an all-time high level of care” to the institution. He said the board officially learned of Robinson’s decision Friday morning, leaving Swanson “a little surprised, but not really.”
Swanson said he could understand Robinson wanting to put family first.
“I’ve got to give Glenn the most credit for creating harmony among the physician groups, which is so much of what Baylor Scott & White is today,” Swanson said. “That was not so true when he took the reins. He has blended personalities, made doctors happy by making an effort to meet their needs. We have the most outstanding group of doctors the community could ever want. He’s a tremendous recruiter and communicator, which makes sense because he started off broadcasting TV news in his younger days.”
Robinson is a native of Georgia and a graduate of the University of Alabama. He completed graduate school training at Trinity University in San Antonio.
During Friday’s interview, Robinson immediately recalled the occasion that galvanized his pride in local health care services. It was April 17, 2013, when a fertilizer plant explosion devastated the community of West, claiming the lives of 15, mostly first responders, and injuring hundreds of area residents.
“Every person who came to either of the two Waco hospitals that night survived and walked out of that hospital,” Robinson said. “That was the same week the nation was focused on the Boston Marathon bombing. Our hospitals treated more people that night than were treated in Boston.”
Robinson is past chairman of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and was named to the board of trustees of the American Hospital Association.