Bebow retires from WRHS; Paxson to become CEO

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Tribute to Gary Bebow, CEO of White River Health Systems (WRHS), was held at White River Medical Center in Batesville Dec. 14.

Bebow has spent his 28 year career working to improve and expand the services provided by WRHS.

The event kicked off with a few words from Gary Paxson who will be taking Bebow’s place as CEO Jan. 1. Bebow will remain with WRHS for another year in a consulting capacity but for all intents and purposes, will be retiring.

“This is an event 28 years in the making. It’s our time to pause and show our thanks and respect to Gary [Bebow]. It’s been a great walk since 1991 and I thought it appropriate as a leadership team at WRHS to give recognition. He taught me a lot and I owe him. As a leadership team, we wanted to leave something with him,” Paxson said as he called Bebow to the front of the room.

Bebow then received a plaque of recognition from the leaders at WRHS.

A video was played of a collection of various people who had worked with Bebow throughout his career, many shared fond memories of times spent with him and reflected on his service and drive to improve healthcare.

One colleague featured on the video recalled the story of the hiring process and of how Bebow came to be an employee at WRHS. Bebow was selected out of five candidates and began as the administrator of the hospital.

“The growth just confirmed our judgment to hire Gary,” the man recalled.

Additional stories featured how Bebow worked to grow the health system including from Rick Elmbaugh, Robert Griffin, Woody Castleberry Les Frensley, Dianne Lamberth, Charlie Schaff and many more.

Following the video, Mayor Elmbaugh took to the podium to speak.

“Under Gary’s leadership we’ve seen great things happen; 100 physicians in this hospital and surrounding areas. Many specialists. They don’t come to your area unless you have a good quality of life and place. That’s what Gary has created,” Elmbaugh said. “Gary served as the chamber president and was very active, not only in the hospital, but in other aspects. He led the way to help care for others; including the homeless. Gary was always passionate about helping this community. He’s been a true difference maker.”

Elmbaugh credited Bebow, and his team, as a direct relation to the health system and the growth of the City of Batesville.

He then asked Bebow to come to the front of the room once again. After a few more kind words, he then thanked Bebow and presented him with a key to the city.

The final speaker was Boris Dover, White River Health System Board of Directors Chairman.

“I want to acknowledge Gary for his enormous empathy. His accomplishments are well documented over the 28 years. CEO‘s are required to make decisions every day even though they may not be well received,” Dover said. “Thank you for executing your vision. You’ve made a tremendous impact by taking healthcare to the next level.”

After his brief comments, a large sign was unveiled and it was announced the east wing of the hospital was renamed after Bebow.

Bebow then took to the podium to make his final comments. He became overcome with emotion and fought back tears.

“It’s been a great tribute to me and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. As I hear the tape, I think I should be thanking you. We’ve accomplished a lot over the last 28 years. I’ve been so blessed with a board of directors who give up their time, finances and making decisions not always in their best interest. We’ve got a great board of directors. I’ve had a team of all stars when it comes to the management of this organization,” Bebow said. “I’m so proud Gary Paxson is to follow me. The medical staff is legendary here and so are the relationships that take place between medical staff and patients. Our medical staff is unbelievable. It takes almost 30 years of training to become a doctor and then they’re only just getting started. They give up family time and work tirelessly to care for the people.”

Bebow went on to speak about the growth of the facility, currently at 1,700 employees, with campuses in surrounding communities.

When Bebow arrived at WRHS in 1991, he stepped into the role of administrator. At that time, there were 467 employees. WRHS now has facilities in Stone, Sharp, Fulton, Izard, Independance, Cleburne, Lawrence and Van Buren counties.

Many lives have been impacted by decisions made by Bebow and his team over the years.

Although Bebow may be retiring, he said he is leaving the future of rural healthcare in good hands with Paxson.

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