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Thank you, Dr. Schreiner

“I didn’t want the job when they offered it to me.”

Uttered by anyone else, such a statement about the position of chief medical officer/pediatrics department chair at a respected children’s hospital might not ring true.
 
But one gets the sense that Dr. Richard L. Schreiner would have been happy spending his career where he started: treating fragile infants in the newborn intensive care unit, “back when I was a real doctor,” as he likes to say.

When he retired from Riley Hospital for Children in September, Dr. Schreiner, 63, was the longest-serving pediatrics department chair in the United States.

It all started because he loved taking care of sick babies.  Dr. Morris Green was the chair of the Riley Hospital/Indiana University School of Medicine pediatrics department when Dr. Schreiner joined the newborn intensive care unit in 1975.

“Morrie had developed the philosophy of focusing on the child as a person and involving the family, what we now call family centered care. He was 10 years ahead of his time,” Dr. Schreiner says. “I loved it.”

By the time Dr. Green retired in 1987, Dr. Schreiner was director of neonatology – with no plans to change.

“I was perfectly happy. I had no desire to be department chair,” he said. “But my friends talked me into it.”

Two decades later, Riley Hospital’s ability to treat patients has expanded exponentially. Although Dr. Schreiner is quick to downplay his role in Riley’s growth, he reveals his pride in a few pet projects.

The Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research opened in 1991.  Riley is now among the top 10 children’s hospitals in the National Institutes of Health research funding.
The 250,000-square-foot Riley Outpatient Center opened in 2000.

“I was probably a little inappropriate in my fight to get that done,” Dr. Schreiner says. “Some people might say I was too emotional, too outspoken. But we needed it.”
In 2005, the hospital broke ground on the Simon Family Tower, which will add hundreds of private rooms and other much-needed spaces. Today, Riley Hospital has the second-largest number of medical students in the country.

“Our student educational program is phenomenal. That’s not because of me, though; it’s because of the leaders of that program,” he says.

His readiness to acknowledge those who work for and around him reflects Dr. Schreiner’s management style.

“You’ve got to get good people who want to work hard, want to be the best they can be. But then you have to have an environment where they feel valued and can achieve what they want to achieve,” he says.

Dr. Schreiner firmly believes the staff members of Riley Hospital have created such an environment.

“The hospital’s going to be in great shape after I leave,” he says.