Phoenix Children’s new VP discusses hospital - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Phoenix Children’s new VP discusses hospital

May 16th, 2019 development
Phoenix Children’s new VP discusses hospital

Managing Editor

A highly experienced healthcare executive, Chandler resident and mother of young twins is steering the growth and development of expanded services for babies, children and women in the East Valley.

Lee Ann Benson, 38, took the reins as the new vice president of the East Valley market for Phoenix Children’s in January.

It is a busy time for Benson and the rest of the team as Phoenix Children’s is going to expand outpatient services with a new medical office building, which will be about 80,000 square feet with 45,000 square feet operated by Phoenix Children’s providers, at Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center’s campus.

That medical building is expected to open in January of next year.

Dignity Health and Phoenix Children’s Hospital are also jointly building the Dignity Health Phoenix Children’s Women & Children’s Pavilion at the Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, 3555 S. Val Vista Drive in Gilbert. That center is expected to open in early 2021.

Phoenix Children’s already runs a 22-bed Pediatric Inpatient Unit at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center where pediatric-trained nurses and hospitalists work 24 hours a day.

Phoenix Children’s Care Network (PCCN) collaborates with more than 170 pediatricians and specialists in the East Valley and Phoenix Children’s pediatric specialists are available for consults at Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.

Benson had previously worked as the vice president of Pediatric Network Development and Growth at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee.

Over her 13 years at Vanderbilt, she worked in leadership roles managing strategic planning, business development, as well as operations of clinical and on-clinical ancillary services, space and facilities planning projects, facility security and emergency preparedness.

Before joining Vanderbilt in 2005, she served as a member of marketing and strategic business development at Children’s Hospital of Alabama.

Benson is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and previously she served on the Board of Directors for the American College of Healthcare Executives of Middle Tennessee chapter and on the Tennessee Regents Advisory Council.

She was honored with the President’s Award of Excellence from the American College of Healthcare Executives of Middle Tennessee in 2018.

Benson also received the American College of Healthcare Executives Regent’s Early Careerist Award and she was nominated for the “Nashville Business Journal’s” Top 40 Under 40 Awards.

She has Bachelor of Science degree in healthcare administration from Auburn University, as well as a master’s degree in health administration and a master’s of business administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She and her husband, Beau, have two-and-a-half-year-old twins, Lynlee and Reid.

We asked her about her job and the projects she oversees.

What are your responsibilities?

This is a new role for Phoenix Children’s. It really came about because of our growing presence in the East Valley. We’re committed to just becoming an integral part of the community. Having a leader whose focus was that community was a key part of that.

It’s very much a collaborative project with Dignity Health. Dignity is leading the construction efforts. They have collaborated with Phoenix Children’s. The new medical office building is on the campus of Mercy Gilbert and I’m very involved in the planning of that.

What do you like about living in Chandler?

We moved here from Nashville, Tennessee. We were seeking a community that would be a great place to raise our family. We have two-and-a-half-year-old twins. Chandler in the East Valley is the perfect place for us.

We settled in the East Valley in South Chandler. Chandler Unified (School District) was voted number one in the state. Gilbert’s (schools) are incredible, as well. My commute will be wonderful.

Talk about the new Women & Children’s Pavilion.

Adding these new services will really provide a comprehensive scope of care for pregnant women and their children. We’re really focused on the continuum. We, with Dignity, are there for the entire journey. We’ll actually have the only dedicated pediatric emergency department in the East Valley.

So, for all of those unexpected injuries and illnesses, we’ll have (services) there 24 hours a day, seven days a week (for) broken bones, beans in ears. One of the incredible services we’ll be adding is a 60-bed, level three neonatal intensive care unit, for premature babies, babies with medical or surgical (needs), private rooms designed for the babies and the family will have space to stay in there.

The neonatal intensive care unit will be adjacent to the post-partum unit. You always want to plan for the what ifs…just in case the baby needs some specialized care. It will create this seamless continuity of care for moms and children.

We also will be adding six operating rooms and two procedural suites. The operating rooms are specifically for children so Phoenix Children’s will operate those. Procedural suites: that would be for things like an endoscopy…surgical type things.

The key design principle is all around family-centered care, keeping families is a key part of the care team, creating spaces for them to support them. It’s just this great comprehensive program for both women and their babies and children as they grow.

How will the pavilion differ from the Pediatric Inpatient Unit?

The difference will be in the new Women & Children’s Pavilion, we will also have a wide range of specialists. It will be a more broad range of services. We offer over 20 subspecialties in the East Valley.

We will be able to work with specialists. The majority of our specialists will actually have most of their time dedicated in the East Valley. Their time is focused on the East Valley. By exception they come down to the main campus. Some of them do highly unique specialized procedures and care.
What can patients expect in the new Medical Office Building?

We are going to have seven key services in that clinic, as well as another rotating clinic. It will include neurology, general surgery, ENT (otolaryngology), orthopedics, endocrinology, including hematology/oncology services as well, an infusion clinic (which will open in March of 2021).

It (the infusion clinic) will be for children of all ages. The 45,000 square feet of building will all be for children. The building is 80,000 square feet total. Other practices will lease space in the building.

Your take on the relationship between Phoenix Children’s and Dignity Health?

We have created a strategic alliance with Dignity Health and it’s been wonderful. We’re able to take the best care for adults and women and paired that with the best in care for children.”

How do you juggle so many projects?

It’s always a challenge. I have an incredible husband who is a key part of our family. My family always comes first. I’ve been blessed to have a career and employers who are supportive of that. It’s just a great organizational culture. It’s a work in progress. I tend to be just a very organized individual. I keep a very detailed calendar and to-do list.

What made you interested in healthcare?

I experienced healthcare failing significantly growing up. I saw firsthand the wonderful aspects of healthcare, as well as the challenges that families experienced. My mother had cancer twice growing up.

She actually passed away from cancer when I was in high school. I actually did an internship in college at Auburn University with the Children’s Hospital in Alabama.

The unique culture and the positive environment and the culture people brought to work just hooked me. I think what was most apparent to me even in that young age was the complexity of healthcare and how challenging it was for families to navigate it.

Having my own children, that really speaks to me, being able to simplify that and include the family in the decision-making, that resonates.

Where was your first job in healthcare?

I started my career at the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and spent three years there and then moved on to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville.

What types of medicine/treatment are most needed in the region?

The population growth in the East Valley has really just been astounding. The majority of that growth has been for young families. We know that easily accessible, high quality care lends itself to healthier communities and overall wellness.

That was really the catalyst for Phoenix Children’s growing in the East Valley. We need comprehensive services right there in the backyard.

What is the most exciting part about watching the construction?
Construction’s always fascinating to me anyway, but I think just knowing that families will have the best in care for women and the best in care for children so easily accessible. It will really be a community-wide resource to support families throughout their journeys in life. It’s incredible.

What advice do you have for any expecting mothers?

When I was pregnant with my twins, I think to understand where the best service is available, planning for the what ifs, if your child would need specialty care, as they’re making decisions about where to go.

There are different classes and things like that. Mercy Gilbert offers a wide array of courses for families to learn, everything from how to care for a newborn, car-seat safety. Finding a pediatrician that aligns well with you and the East Valley is blessed with many wonderful physicians.

Having a great pediatrician partner is building that relationship so at any point in your pregnancy they identify any concerns.

What are some recent advances in technology and treatment for healthcare for women’s and children’s treatments?

The ability to identify abnormalities or potential healthcare needs of the babies when they’re in utero.

We have a phenomenal (pediatric) radiologist at Phoenix Children’s who does fetal MRIs, to help mothers understand, being able to early on identify any challenges or needs that babies may have so there is no delay in care when they are born. We will have pediatric imaging in the new Women’s and Children’s as well.

How do you like to spend your free time?

We love the outdoors so exploring Arizona has been a lot of fun for us on our weekends and time away. We also have a dog, a 90-pound Golden Doodle named Newton. My husband and I actually met at a running club. Information: