Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Feature Story

Leader of Consequence: From Cars to Health Care

Jimmy Childre (Global Executive '00) began his career in the car business but is now CEO of his community hospital.

Global Executive MBA alumnus Jimmy Childre
Jimmy Childre
March 03, 2009

By Elizabeth Michalka — This article was originally published in the alumni magazine Team Fuqua.

At 25, Jimmy Childre Jr. opened his own business, a full-service Ford dealership. Looking back and laughing at his age, Childre said confidence of youth was to blame for his business venture. But in some way, he had time on his side.

Childre's father and grandfather were also in the car business. After college, Childre worked at his father's General Motors dealership for three years before opening Childre Ford-Mercury in Sandersville, GA, in 1980. Childre's dealership earned prestigious awards and became an integral part of the community, but Childre still aspired to continue his education.

"I attended an executive management program at Harvard from 1990 to 1992 with people from around the world," Childre said. "That whet my appetite, and I began searching for more global opportunities."

Nine years later, Childre graduated from Fuqua's Global Executive program . The same year, he was asked to join the board of his community hospital — Washington County Regional Medical Center . While Childre had sought out the MBA, he admitted that his appointment to the hospital board was another story.

"I reluctantly joined the board," Childre said. "Then next thing I knew, I was asked to be chairman. I initially declined, but for some reason, I remembered the speech I gave at graduation … I challenged my classmates, asking them to think about what they'll do for others with their new skills."

As the only board member with an MBA, Childre followed his own advice and accepted the chairman position. To keep up with challenges facing the hospital, Childre put more education under his belt — in 2007, he earned both a Master of Studies degree in Community Enterprise from University of Cambridge and a Health Sector Management (HSM) certificate from Fuqua.

Then Childre accepted an unpaid, full-time CEO position at the hospital, leaving more responsibilities for his car dealership in the capable hands of his management team. Recently, in February 2009, the medical center's board offered Childre, 54, a paid CEO position.

"I was honored and flattered," Childre said. "I am excited to know that I can continue to help the hospital."

While volunteer CEO, Childre instituted a restructuring of the hospital, which is still underway, but has already helped transform a reactive culture into a proactive one, he said. Childre noted that collaboration and teamwork have increased, as well as patient satisfaction.

Through the process, he's received assistance and consultation from Fuqua faculty, staff, students and alumni. Six teams of Daytime and Executive MBA students have completed projects at the hospital, and three alumni helped Childre develop an IT strategy: Anna Ramanathan (Cross Continent '07), Pankaj Vashisth (Weekend Executive '08) and Robert Jordshaugen (Weekend Executive '06 and HSM).

"Fuqua has given so much to me, I can never give enough back. It's amazing … I went from cars to health care, and the bridge that got me there was Fuqua," said Childre, who is also a Fuqua Alumni Council member and a long-time supporter of the Fuqua Annual Fund.