A Look At a Leader: Dr. William Engle

Riley 100 |


Dr Engle Web

The most rewarding part of his job is taking care of sick babies that eventually get well, go home and go on to lead productive lives.

With up to 10 percent of all babies needing intensive care, it is critical to have a team of specialists dedicated to their needs. Enter William A. Engle, MD, neonatologist at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Director of Clinical Affairs, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. “In the NICU, you not only need doctors and nurses, but social workers, those working on financial planning with families, secretaries, dieticians, pharmacists, and even the janitorial staff. They are all integral,” he says. “Everyone collaborates and is committed to providing top care.” What makes the Riley NICU so special according to Dr. Engle is that it is the only comprehensive level 4 neonatal intensive care unit in the state of Indiana. “The Riley NICU provides all sub specialty services needed including a Neuro NICU and comprehensive cardiovascular disease support.”

As a child growing up in the Midwest, Dr. Engle says he was always interested in medicine. Once he graduated from Indiana University with his medical degree, Dr. Engle was offered a job at Indiana University Health--and has been there since 1985. Why has he stayed so long? “There are always so many great opportunities here.” One project Dr. Engle is especially proud of: He and his colleagues developed the first neonatal and pediatric extracorporeal membrane oxygenation service in Indiana, a technically complex and intensive life-saving treatment for extremely sick newborn babies. Dr. Engle and his neonatology colleagues in Indiana established the Indiana Vermont Oxford Quality Collaborative in 2009. “The focus is on attacking the high rate of infant mortality in Indiana,” says Dr. Engle. “I have been fortunate to have support from our group in Neonatal Perinatal Pediatrics and the Department of Pediatrics at Indiana University to participate directly in these efforts.”

As the father of three, he says being a parent provided additional perspective. “The experience of fatherhood has helped me to have deep empathy and understanding of families under stress and to rejoice in the recovery of sick babies. Fatherhood has helped me practice patience as well, to listen more intently and to provide more thoughtful guidance.”

The most rewarding part of his job is taking care of sick babies that eventually get well, go home and go on to lead productive lives. “Those outcomes happen more often than not and seeing happy families, even if they have challenges along the way, is rewarding.” When he works with residents and others training to be doctors and they ask him about career counseling, Dr. Engle says, “I tell them that I’ve been blessed to have a job that is my passion. I don’t consider it work. I get paid for doing what I love to do.”

And what is a typical day like for Dr. Engle? “My opportunities are varied. I get to take care of sick babies and collaborate with families. I teach bedside with residents, fellows and students and I work with the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other things.”

He also loves keeping up with patients when he has the time. “Riley has an annual picnic for children who spent time in the NICU. We often have adults attend who were once NICU babies and they come back with their own children. I’ve met quite a few adults there that I took care of as infant patients. It’s a great feeling.”

When he’s not working, Dr. Engle enjoys spending time with his wife of 37 years. He credits her—and their strong marriage—for his success. “I’ve been blessed in many ways; my wife keeps me grounded. I credit her with all of the opportunities I have had and the rewards that have come with it. In the NICU, we have a team to help the babies. In my marriage, my wife is my partner and it is that combined effort that makes everything work.”

-- By Judy Koutsky