By Nancy Robertson, Senior Editor
In this day and time, a hospital administrator serving in a single community and leadership role for 30 years is a remarkable achievement. When that same administrator also takes on significant leadership duties in the community, say, serving as mayor – it may seem unusual. But for Pat McCabe, CEO of Levi Hospital in Hot Springs, this seemingly unique longevity and juxtaposition of roles is simply everyday life.
“I was taking pre-law courses at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point when, after our second semester, a professor challenged us to examine why we wanted to become lawyers,” McCabe says. “He indicated there were careers ‘out there,’ particularly the up-and-coming field of Public Health, that might be a lot more rewarding than a career in law. I didn’t lean toward Public Health, but knew from my parents’ careers that there was a lot of satisfaction in the health care field. I changed my pathway, and haven’t looked back.”
McCabe received his undergraduate degree at UW-SP and immediately began his pursuit of a Master’s in Health Administration from Saint Louis University. Upon graduation, he was offered a position at Hutchinson Hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas. Serving as Vice President of Operations, he says he learned a lot that became a strong foundation for his future.
From Hutchinson, he and his family moved to Hot Springs, where he became Assistant Administrator and then COO of the [then] St. Joseph’s Regional Hospital. In 1987, he joined Levi Hospital as its President and CEO – and the rest is history.
“I am fortunate to work for a great Board of Directors,” McCabe says. “We are in sync on our mission to meet community needs, particularly in providing great patient care.”
By 1989, he wanted to become further involved with his community’s leadership, so McCabe ran unopposed for the position of City Director. This run launched a 27-year interest in local leadership that is still alive today. For more than 10 of those years, he was serving in elected positions, helping to lead the community of Hot Springs. In 2014, he made a run for Mayor – losing the election by a mere 40 votes.
“This spring, our Mayor resigned, and the city’s governing board sought applications for the position,” he says. “I applied and was selected; my term will conclude in December of 2018.” According to McCabe, working with the city board is much like working with the hospital board. “As with the hospital board, the city’s board sets policy. The two leadership roles are similar in many respects.”
Six years ago, McCabe says he was watching a lot of basketball and felt the need to get off of the couch and become more physically fit. “I had reached the point where I was 70 pounds heavier than I was in my collegiate swimming competition days,” he says. “It was not a comfortable place to be. So, I started slowly and worked hard at becoming fit. I went from the couch to Ironman in 18 months. And it all started with short walks around the block.”
An Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. There are cut-off times throughout and if participants don’t meet them they are pulled off the course. Even if they meet all the cut-off times, competitors have to cross the finish line within 17 hours. McCabe is an avid competitor on the triathlon circuit.
Physical fitness has become a way of life for McCabe, and he encourages it among the employees at Levi Hospital as well. “We live in a great community for fitness,” he says. “With its many hiking and biking trails, Hot Springs is a beautiful place to be in the outdoors. We can literally leave the hospital’s back door and be on a running trail in minutes.”
The hospital leadership and board are supportive of employees wishing to increase their fitness levels. “We provide Fit-Bits for those who are counting steps,” he says, “and we will pay the entrance fees for those who want to participate in the walking and running competitions held in our community. It’s our way of supporting the causes sponsoring these events, and supporting our co-workers, as well.” Other areas where Levi Hospital supports employees’ fitness quests include Lunch and Learn educational opportunities and orientation to the National Park Service trails – letting folks know the fitness opportunities that are available right outside their doors.
Levi Hospital never billed a patient for its first 50 years in operation, McCabe says. “Our mission was simply to serve.” Today, yes, there is a bottom line, but the mission remains the same. “We do some things here that others see, and scratch their heads, wondering why. But if it has to do with service, we are going to decide on the side of providing.”
One area where Levi Hospital took a lead was in providing athletic trainers to seven area high schools. This has continued for nearly a dozen years. “In the early days, we did it as a no-cost service because we wanted to protect our student athletes,” McCabe explains. “Today, we ask only for enough to cover the costs of providing the trainers’ time and expenses. Ultimately, having a healthy student body is more important to us than anything. And in the meantime, we have a number of students who, themselves, are becoming interested in careers as athletic trainers. We are even helping write a curriculum for high school courses in that vein.”
Levi also collaborated with other community groups in providing an adult day care program for Alzheimer’s patients. “They looked to Levi to help stabilize and grow their program. Once they felt comfortable taking back the day-to-day operation, we stepped back.” Levi believes in pooling its talents to strengthen the community.
As if his leadership roles and dedication to physical fitness don’t keep him busy enough, McCabe and his wife, Ellen, are now undertaking a new venture. They’re renovating one of Hot Springs’ original bath houses on Bath House Row, turning it into a boutique hotel with two restaurants.
Ellen is well-known in the community as a beloved restauranteur. Having owned and operated Ellen’s Cassoulet Cafe for many years, her expertise in creating mouth-watering pastries and desserts is well-known. Now that their children are grown, Pat and Ellen are taking on their new restaurant and hotel project with gusto.
As always, Pat McCabe is on the lookout for ways to collaborate, share talents and encourage health and well-being within the Hot Springs community. “There’s always a way to meet common needs,” he says. “You just have to look for solutions.”
The above article is from the Fall 2017 edition of Arkansas Hospitals, a quarterly magazine published by the Arkansas Hospital Association. Vowell, Inc. produces Arkansas Hospitals on behalf of the Arkansas Hospital Association. This article is reprinted with permission.