Lifting Riley’s Heart Center team to new heights

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Tom Harlow: “We want to be excellent and exceptional in everything we do and provide every opportunity for these children to grow up with their families.”

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

Former power lifter Tom Harlow doesn’t do stunts much anymore, but the 42-year-old administrator is ready to elevate the cardiovascular team at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Harlow joined Riley in August as administrative director of the CV service line, overseeing business development, operations improvement and strategy implementation. In a nutshell, his goal is to expand Riley heart care services in the state, while maintaining the team’s top-notch status around the country.

Riley’s cardiology and heart surgery program is ranked No. 5 in the country in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals rankings for 2020-21.

Harlow power lifting

The former power lifter and member of the cheer team at the University of Evansville earned his undergraduate degree in sports medicine, then went on to IU to get a master’s in clinical physiology.

He worked for years in the field of cardio testing before pursuing his MBA and moving into operations management.

“It was tough to leave the clinical role, but I thought if I can help make leadership decisions that positively impact patient care, then that’s good, too,” Harlow said.

Erin Pattee, program director for strategic planning at Riley, is pleased to have Harlow on the Riley Heart Center team.

“His past experience in creating shared visions, integrating multiple strategies into a comprehensive plan and working with complex matrixed teams will help complement the expert team in the CV service line to continue to drive value for our patients and families,” Pattee said.

The Noblesville native looks forward to the work in front of him and is focused on expanding Riley’s footprint in cardiovascular care. He knows he has arrived at a special place.

“It feels fantastic,” he said during an interview in the lobby of Simon Family Tower.

He had just come off the elevator at Riley with a CV nurse who told him she has worked at the hospital for over 30 years.

“I told her it seems like a really special place to work,” he said. “And she said, ‘It is. That’s why I’ve been here so long.’”

Harlow dressed professionally at Riley

Harlow, who looks forward to collaborating with Riley’s physicians on best practices going forward, is impressed by their sense of purpose, their compassion and their commitment to excellence.

“They have big visions, and that’s what we need,” he said. “We have to continue to improve, and I think we have a group of physician leaders who have that passion, that vision.”

Harlow came to Riley after 17 years with another hospital system in Indianapolis. The opportunity was too good to pass up.

“I wasn’t aggressively searching for a new career, so it was going to have to be something special. And this is special,” he said. “It’s a really neat environment to work in, with a special group of people who really care about the patients.”

He and his wife, Jamie, whom he met on the cheer squad at the University of Evansville, live on the Southside of Indianapolis with their four children, ages 14, 11, 9 and almost 7.

He can’t help but see his kids in the faces of the children he sees on the CV unit near his office every day. And he’s had the chance to talk to some of those children and their parents.

“When you see how we’ve changed the outcome of their lives, it makes a huge difference in wanting to be the best at what we do,” he said.

“If that were my child, what would I want for them? That really hits home. We want to be excellent and exceptional in everything we do and provide every opportunity for these children to grow up with their families.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,