JPS Health Network President and CEO Robert Earley will retire in March after 13 years leading Tarrant County’s publicly-supported healthcare system.
The network includes 25 community locations that provide primary care, behavioral health, pharmacy services, and John Peter Smith Hospital, the county’s only Level I Trauma Center. The system was named most outstanding health system in D CEO’s 2020 healthcare awards and Best Hospital in America by Washington Monthly and the Lown Institute in 2020.
Earley will retire after leading the system through about two years of the COVID-19 pandemic but said the main impetus was to take care of his parents. He thanked JPS’ 7,200 employees via video message for their hard work in serving Tarrant county, adding, “About nine months ago, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The very next day, my mom fell and broke her hip. I now need to give 100 percent to my parents. I want to be the son to them, as they were the parents to me.”
Earley brought personality and energy to the system, along with his three rules printed on every employee’s badge: Own it. Seek Joy. Don’t be a jerk. “What you have a lot here is people are genuinely mission-driven when they come through the door,” Earley told D CEO last year.
Last year, the system was recognized for improving access to the underserved, with community clinics, mobile street medicine programs, and integrating behavioral health into primary care clinics. Washington Monthly and the Lown Institute evaluated 3,200 hospitals and ranked highly those that “save lives, save money, and serve social justice.”
Earley was no stranger to the pages of the D CEO. Pre-pandemic, he would bake pies for employees and share them with three random JPS employees each week. Post-pandemic, the gift became honey from his bees, as he is an amateur apiculturist. In addition to a bee farm, he keeps up a barn and owns five Clydesdales on a property in Central Texas. “We work best when we have everyone doing what they are supposed to be doing, everybody has a role, and everybody has a purpose,” he told D CEO in 2015. “The beehive only produces honey when all the conditions are right, and there are no barriers to overcome. It’s no different at JPS.”
The job hasn’t always been easy. In 2017, Earley spoke about the difficult decisions he has to make about organ donation for a patient who dies and has no next of kin contact. “I have to figure out the best way to be their family member. I hold their hand and pray. Then I make the decision for them to be an organ and tissue donor. I think about the lives it will save. I have an overwhelming sadness for the loss of someone in front of me, and [hope] for those I don’t know.”
When reflecting on the first year of the pandemic, he found a silver lining in working with the people at JPS. “I have seen the best in people I’ve ever seen, and I think this place is phenomenal. This place has made me a better person. When I get to see how people reacted in a pandemic, delivering food, and dealing with the challenges of death, that is amazing to me… it was pretty miraculous for me to be able to work beside people who rose above levels that they ever thought they could rise above.”
The JPS Board of Managers will soon start the search for the next president and CEO. Incoming board president and community leader Dorothy DuBose said, “It is with sadness in our hearts that we support Robert Earley in retiring as CEO. JPS has had a wonderful experience under his leadership, and we will miss our treasure.”