Bob Main, who in 26 years has built Chattanooga’s Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation into one of the best of its kind in the country, took a look at two of the city’s most distinguished physicians on Saturday and adapted his credo to Harry Lawrence and Millard Perrin: “Caring people change lives.”
There could be no better description of the three men who were recognized by the Baroness Erlanger Foundation at its annual Distinguished Physician’s Brunch, which was held at the Chattanooga Golf & Country Club. No mortal could possibly estimate the lives that the two Erlanger doctors and “the man who built Siskin Hospital” have touched and changed in well over a quarter century.
Dr. Lawrence, introduced by Dr. Molly Seal who has worked in practice with him, was widely known as a brilliant ophthalmologist, a respected Episcopal priest, and a tireless servant, whether volunteering for one mission trip after another or patiently teaching upcoming doctors. He has spent 45 years treating patients and mending souls in Chattanooga – often simultaneously.
Dr. Perrin, called “Foy” by close friends like fellow Arkansas native Leonard Fant who welcomed him before the large crowd, has been a leading pediatrician in Chattanooga for 35 years and he is still the unflappable, kind gentleman who they still speak of at Children’s Hospital as one of the best ever. He served in countless roles for the betterment of Erlanger and Children’s both and remembers his former patients with great joy (including my two children who adored him.)
And then there is Bob Main, the Midwesterner who came to Chattanooga as the very first employee hired to build and direct what has evolved into a bustling rehabilitation complex far beyond anyone’s dreams. He was honored for his continuing contribution to Chattanooga with the hope that – after 26 years of undaunted progress – he will continue to inspire, wow, and celebrate what he himself calls his “every-day miracles.”
“I’m very humbled by this,” the Siskin leader said, “but I am also honest enough with myself to say Erlanger’s tribute is not so much towards me as to my staff. We’ve got the best collection of employees who are totally committed to the belief that … caring people,” he looked at Dr. Lawrence and Dr. Perrin once again, “do indeed change lives.”
Main was introduced by Dr. John Boxell, who marveled at his friend’s relentless drive to make Siskin the best in America. “He’s a magnificent individual who has taken the dream of Mose and Garrison Siskin and made it happen. I believe one of Merv Pregulman’s greatest moments was when he brought Bob to Chattanooga.”
Yogi Anderson, the executive director of the hospital’s Foundation, said that he counted up how many years the three had given to the citizens of our area and “it was three digits, if that tells you the impact they have had on our city.”
With many past winners present and a number of other Erlanger doctors attending, there was an air of excitement over the recent hiring of a new Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Speigel, and while he tried to attend the brunch, his airplane was delayed in Memphis. “He’s really eager to start,” said Gregg Gentry, who has been serving as the chief administrative officer.
“I have had a number of conversations with (Speigel) and he’s really upbeat, eager to solve problems, and wants to become part of Erlanger’s decision process early,” Gentry said. “He doesn’t take office officially until April 1 but he is planning to come over at least once a week until then.”
The biggest topic of table conversation was the new Board of Trustees, expected to be named in the near future by Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and members of the local delegation of state legislators. The nine-member body will replace the hospital’s existing board and provide needed stability at the region’s Level 1 trauma center.