Featured Leader: Ben McKibbens

Ben McKibbensBen McKibbens served as the president and CEO of the Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen, Texas for 25 years! The average tenure of hospital CEOs is less than 5 years. After 25 remarkable years at the helm of this South Texas health system, McKibbens has learned a thing or two about healthcare leadership.

An alumnus of Mississippi College and the University of Alabama’s graduate program in Healthcare Administration, McKibbens has been deeply involved in healthcare leadership since he completed his residency at Mobile Infirmary Medical Center in Mobile, Alabama. After becoming president and CEO of Valley Baptist, McKibbens oversaw a time of unprecedented growth for this humble medical center nestled in the tip of the Rio Grande Valley.

Throughout his career in healthcare leadership, Ben McKibbens has been active both inside and outside of hospital walls. As part of his commitment to future generations of healthcare leaders, he has served as a preceptor for graduate programs in Healthcare Administration with Trinity University and the University of Alabama. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, has served as the president of the Texas Baptist Hospital Association, and has served as the chairman of the Texas Hospital Association, Baptist Hospital Association, and the Voluntary Hospitals of Texas. He has also served as a board member for Texas Health Institute, Mississippi College, and Westminster Retirement Center. In addition to his extensive commitment to and involvement in healthcare and the community, McKibbens has always been active in the Baptist church, where he has served as the chairman of deacons and teaches an adult Sunday School class.

McKibbens has been highly praised by his colleagues and peers; “Ben is a man of principles and faith,” said the late Wes Lepard, former chairman of the Valley Baptist Health System board of directors; “He has strong values and a real vision for serving the community’s needs in healthcare. He applies his values in every decision he makes in his family life, business life and the community life. He has lived our mission.”

Though retired now, McKibbens has remained active and continues to be passionate about healthcare leadership. He was one of the founding members and served as the executive director of the Healthcare Outreach Network, a faith-based network that served to connect healthcare resources with healthcare needs worldwide. Through this organization McKibbens helped to provide supplies, equipment, training, and programs to clinics, hospitals, and medical missions efforts across the globe. Due to the economic downturn the organization is no longer active, but McKibbens remains passionate about helping those throughout the world in need of better healthcare. “It’s very important to realize that when you’re in a position of leadership, what you do can have a very powerful impact on so many.”

When asked what he considers to be some of his greatest accomplishments, McKibbens’ immediate response reflected the servant leadership that is at his core:

“First of all, I’d say the generous support of the health system by so many different people from various backgrounds and locations. Secondly, that I was able to assist the system by developing a mentality of need for things like improving, expanding, and opening new schools— health-related schools—to invest in the future and to honor and appreciate those who have assisted us in trying to get where we’re going.”

His passion for healthcare and its impact and future was apparent as McKibbens went on to talk about the incredible value of creating schools and programs to further healthcare education and improvements. “I think one of the best things is that when you start developing educational programs and nursing schools and medical residency programs and clinical training programs and all of these things, people realize the importance of good healthcare education. And all of a sudden, when these things are developed, then the results start appearing.”

If he hadn’t chosen a career in healthcare leadership, McKibbens says it’s likely he would have become a teacher, explaining that not only is it interesting, giving you a chance to stay up to speed on certain subjects, but it can be very worthwhile when done well. “I think it would give me a chance to feel good about giving good direction—not because I have the wisdom to do it, but because other people gave me good direction and I can pass it on.”

McKibbens noted that foremost among his most satisfying achievements during his life thus far was being a part of creating an institution that has a reputation for integrity. “Its individuals are better off because they are a part of it—that makes you feel good. Loren and I are particularly pleased with the Valley Baptist Health System’s Family Practice Program, which was named after us. The program is directed by an exceptional physician, Dr. Bruce Leibert, and has proven to be an outstanding addition to the Health System.” Overall, McKibbens says he’s most proud of so many people doing so well. “It makes me very happy to see that.”

Since his retirement, McKibbens has had the chance to pursue a few things on his personal bucket list. At the top of his list is spending more time with his family—something he regrets not being able to do more of while serving as the leader of a rapidly growing health system. In addition to family time, McKibbens has been working to improve his overall health and wellbeing—a task he has selflessly done for others throughout his life and remarkable career.