Doctors come to medicine in many ways—inspired by personal health trials, private missions, even random interest. For Dr. Paul Haut, medicine was a family matter. Haut, the chief medical officer for Riley Children’s Health at Indiana University Health, was raised by both a doctor and a nurse in Little Rock, Arkansas, a dynamic, which made an impact on him from an early age. “My dad was an adult hematologist, your classic white coat internist,” he recalls. “He was also an academician, working at the medical school there. He was one of my role models,” says Haut.
Spending summers as a child working in his father’s office also made an impression. “I’d spend hours doing things like filing blood slides,” Haut recalls. Yet, the medical bug didn’t bite right way. “I majored in political science and thought about law school but I still felt pulled to medicine. So, I ultimately applied to medical school and did my training at the same university that employed my father. Then, I did my residency at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.”
Pediatrics, Haut says, wasn’t a part of the original plan. “I assumed I’d work with adults, but then I discovered the different dynamic that’s there when you take care of a child,” he recalls. “The ability to be able to impact life over a longer horizon really motivated me.”
Pinning down a pediatric specialty, however, proved more difficult. Haut ultimately decided to focus his work on bone marrow transplants, inspired by the work of a medical school mentor. “I followed him to Chicago to do my fellowship and spent eight years there until I was recruited in 2002 to run the transplant program at Riley,” he says. Haut assumed the role as the director of the Riley stem cell transplant program that year and stayed on in that position for ten more.
Coming to Indianapolis from Chicago was a change, admits Haut, but a wonderful one. “I always tell people, there is something almost intangible about working at Riley,” he explains. “The people who work here are so focused on serving children and their families. The work can be really hard and the kids can be so sick. However, everyone here is deeply committed to achieving the same things and that makes Riley a very special place.”
Riley’s robust team and their unique delivery of care also caught Haut’s eye early on. “It’s a team concept at Riley and we consider the patient’s families a part of our team. Our ability to integrate a child’s care with our child life zone, rehab therapists, specialty pharmacists and our school program is unique. You won’t get those options at the hospitals you drive by to get here.”
Still, spending your life helping children courageously fight for their own, can change a person and Haut admits it. “I began to recognize signs of burn out,” he recalls. “I was taking care of pediatric patients in situations where many of them ultimately may not survive. My goal was always to help the patient and family navigate their situation to ensure they were making the best choices to meet their goals and maximize quality of life whatever the ultimate outcome.”
Haut’s career has been one of expanding impact, starting with growing stem cells in a lab, to patient centered care, to program development. “Ultimately my interest in continuing on that path led me to recognize that full time direct patient care was not in my future.”
Fate can be an interesting force, an element some say intervened. “Riley was looking for a new CMO around that time and I began to think more about a future in hospital administration,” says Haut.
Leadership isn’t something Haut says he has ever shied away from, so a potential transition to a role of CMO wasn’t intimidating. “I’ve always understood that true leadership has to be about facilitating change. Everyone wants to improve patient outcomes. I recognize that a CMO’s ability to influence that experience is a powerful one.”
Riley’s framework also felt familiar. “The children’s hospital I started at in Arkansas is similar in structure,” he explains. “It’s the only children’s hospital in the state and like us, it sits in the middle of the state. So, I began to see all of these parallels and all the pieces of the CMO position suddenly felt right.”
Transparency is important in a leader; it’s a trait Haut takes seriously. “A good leader needs to have a vision and strategy but that needs to be informed by the needs of their team and the population they are serving,” he says. “My role is about helping the patients and their families and the entire Riley team. It’s about caring for the needs of children and impacting their health in a significant and positive way, both here in Indianapolis and across the state of Indiana. Working to expand Riley’s ability to serve patients and their families is something that is truly rewarding.”
-- By Sarah Burns