Written by Jennifer Leviseur

The Earl M. Collier Award for Distinguished Health Care Administration is the highest honor bestowed by the Texas Hospital Association. It recognizes outstanding executives who have distinguished themselves through their contributions to the health care industry and their profession, who are leaders in providing quality health care services, and who are active in THA and other industry groups.

Charisma, character, leadership and integrity are just a handful of the terms used to describe Tim Lancaster, FACHE, president and CEO of Hendrick Health System in Abilene, and the 2017 winner of the Texas Hospital Association’s Earl M. Collier Award for Distinguished Health Care Administration. For more than 30 years, Lancaster has been respected and revered for not only his accomplishments as a health care administrator, but also for his ability to inspire those around him. Team is the word mentioned most often by Lancaster’s colleagues when explaining why they hold him in high esteem.

Lancaster and his wife, Regina, met while working at Lubbock National Bank, and have been married 40 years. They have two sons, Chad and wife Lindsay and Chris and wife Meredith, and four grandsons.

“I first met Tim when he became the new president and CEO of Hendrick Health System 13 years ago,” said David Morris, chair of the Hendrick Medical Center Board of Trustees. “I appreciate Tim’s ability in creating a team culture at Hendrick. Our people are exceptionally passionate, work well together, respect each other and, as expressed in our mission statement, emphasize excellence and compassion in all that they do. They are a true team.”

Early Years

Lancaster was born in Brownwood, a place he returned to later in life as a seasoned health care executive. As the child of a Baptist minister and later director of church missions, Lancaster’s childhood was peripatetic. The family called numerous Texas towns home, including Dallas, Whitewright, Farmersville and Paducah.

Lancaster attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock to study finance. After graduation, Lancaster served as vice president and marketing director at Lubbock National Bank for 10 years. Then everything changed. He received a call from a headhunter inquiring if he had ever considered a career in hospital administration. That question planted a seed and a desire: to do something—to take care of people when they are sick and vulnerable.

 That single phone call in 1983 initiated a heath care career spanning more than three decades, beginning at West Texas Hospital in Lubbock.

Seven years later, Lancaster became CEO of D.M. Cogdell Memorial Hospital in Snyder, and in March 1994, he brought his expertise and experience to Hendrick Health System as senior vice president. He spent the next four years overseeing and developing a variety of service lines, as well as establishing a regional outreach program.

In 1998, he would return to his birthplace to serve as CEO of Brownwood Regional Medical Center. During his time in Brownwood, Lancaster oversaw the then-218-bed, acute care hospital and led two expansions that included admissions, occupational medicine, emergency department, intensive care unit, respiratory services, pharmacy and operating rooms. He also decreased staff turnover by 25 percent. After six years in Brownwood, Lancaster would find his way back to Abilene when he was named president and CEO of Hendrick Health System. During his professional journey, Lancaster also earned a master’s degree in health care administration from Texas Women’s University in Dallas.

Defining a Team Culture at Hendrick Health System

For the past 13 years, Lancaster has been a valuable leader at Hendrick Health System, a 94-year-old, Baptist-affiliated, 564-bed medical center that employs nearly 3,200 people and provides services to residents of a 19-county area of Central and West Texas. Under his leadership, Hendrick has enjoyed operational stability and financial growth, allowing the facility to offer new service lines that would otherwise require patients to travel to larger cities.

Lancaster led the charge to strategically plan and issue bonds for PROJECT 2010, an $86 million expansion project that was the largest major capital campaign in the history of the hospital. Under Lancaster’s watch, the campaign generated enough funding to add a new physician office building, as well as a new patient tower that includes expanded support services, new surgical suites and operating rooms, a new orthopedic center, a new labor and delivery unit and a relocated and expanded children’s hospital.

Since the conclusion of that campaign, Hendrick has added a hospice center, a south side medical plaza and an emergency department in Abilene, as well as a new outpatient surgery center and a soon-to-be-built medical office building in Brownwood.

Lancaster’s expertise, knowledge and involvement also extends to academia. He worked closely with community leaders to expand the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s Abilene Campus offerings, including the addition of the School of Pharmacy, the School of Nursing, the School of Public Health and the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at Abilene.

While these accomplishments have made their mark on both the Hendrick Health System and the communities it serves, Lancaster may be best known for his ability to inspire others. For the last 12 years, Hendrick has won the Gallup Great Workplace Award, a nod to Lancaster’s leadership in creating an exceptional team culture.

“The best part of leading Hendrick is the people I have the privilege of working with—from physicians to nurses to environmental services,” said Lancaster. “Our success as a health institution is due to the commitment and the legacy of our employees. They care about our patients and for each other.”

This ardent respect for his staff is the reason why the words "team" and "Lancaster" go hand-in-hand. He has a knack for bringing out the best in people, a trait that has helped create a team built on the core values of integrity, teamwork, compassion, accountability, optimism and engagement.

“I admire his ability to allow others to lead,” said Robert Wiley, M.D., pediatrician and chief of staff of Hendrick Medical Center. “His interaction with the medical staff has created a team that is focused on providing compassionate care with excellence. He reminds us to focus on what is right and all else will follow.”

In addition, Lancaster is passionate about serving his community and state, offering his skills to other health care organizations, such as THA, the American Hospital Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Texas Association of Voluntary Hospitals. He also is a past chair of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce and currently is vice chair of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents, an appointment made by then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2013.

“Hendrick can say that every one of its hospital presidents since 1929 has received the Earl M. Collier Award, including Earl Collier himself,” said Norm Archibald, vice president of Hendrick Medical Center Foundation. “Tim’s lasting contributions to Hendrick—strong financials, outstanding facilities and a great medical staff—will be felt for decades into the future.”