Campbell Clinic CEO Named Inside Memphis Business CEO of the Year

February 6, 2020

George Hernandez is in the business of easing pain, whether it’s the limited mobility of a “frozen shoulder” or the life-changing need of a hip replacement, Campbell Clinic serves a most basic human need. We are functional creatures, and our moving parts require attention, and at every stage of life.

“The breadth and types of patients we see are almost never-ending,” says Hernandez, “from a baby born with scoliosis to someone at a latter stage of life suffering debilitating arthritis. A joint replacement can return someone to a fruitful and enjoyable life. To see the improvement we can make on people’s lives . . . it’s so rewarding. You can literally impact the enjoyment of life.”

Hernandez saw much of the country before making Memphis home in 1986. Born and raised in Delmar, New York (near Albany), he moved west to San Antonio, Texas, for graduate school after earning a degree in biology at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh. After discovering an acumen for healthcare administration at Trinity University, Hernandez spent time in Hawaii, Southern California, and Louisville before making his way to the Bluff City for a job with the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry. “When you come to Memphis, it has enough seasons to be different and enjoyable,” says Hernandez. “The traffic compared with Southern California [was delightful]. And great people, great food, and entertainment.”

Hernandez joined Campbell Clinic in 1995 and spent 15 years as CFO alongside then-CEO John Vines, taking over as Campbell Clinc CEO in 2010 upon Vines’ retirement. “I’m thankful that I earned the trust and respect of the physicians who own the clinic,” reflects Hernandez. “I felt I was ready for the position. The timing was perfect, as John was ready to do the fun things that come with retirement and I was ready for something more than CFO [duties]. I’d had some mentoring in areas that John was very good at, like strategic planning.”

In 2010, Campbell Clinic had almost 40 physician providers and topped $50 million in gross revenue. At the end of 2019 — after what amounts to a decade under Hernandez’s leadership — the company has more than 50 providers and reached $300 million in revenue. There are a total of five clinics and two surgery centers, the most recent development being the $46 million, four-story building on Wolf River Boulevard that opened in December. The new facility (a total of 120,000 square feet) features a physical therapy center and Accel Performance and Wellness on the ground floor and an ambulatory surgery center on the fourth floor (with eight operating rooms).

There’s a ripple effect to Campbell Clinic’s work that Hernandez has come to appreciate, one that results from young physicians growing into the kind that make an impact on an international level. A rising specialist will often take a fellowship in another part of the country before returning to start a career at Campbell Clinic. This infuses new and fresh perspectives that yield growth throughout the business. “They’re talented, intelligent, and dedicated,” notes Hernandez, “but to see them grow a name for themselves through hard work, and become a spokesperson under the umbrella of Campbell Clinic, is really rewarding.”

Counting 600 employees on his watch, Hernandez takes seriously the goal of making each feel like a priority. “It’s the most difficult part of my job,” he says. “I try to start at day one, attending [weekly] new-employee orientation. Give them some background on who I am, but more importantly, I want to understand who they are, how they joined us, and where they want to go. I give each of them a six-month assignment. I want them to evaluate how Campbell Clinic is as an employer to them. What do they think makes a good job a great job? How are we doing at meeting that criteria?”

With a decade as Campbell Clinic CEO under his belt, Hernandez seeks new challenges — and answers for them — in an industry that must grow with the pace of technology and continue to provide the wide range of care our imperfect bodies require. “I continue to learn more,” says Hernandez. “I rely on my peers, the physicians who own the clinic, and our management staff. The larger a business grows, the more the strength of a management team will gauge success. The shortest-tenured member of our [six-person] administrative team is seven years.”

Hernandez recently suffered a neck ailment, one that landed him in the hands of a member of his physical-therapy team, Kevin Olds. Lying on a table, his head literally in the hands of an employee, Hernandez screamed upon his neck being twisted suddenly . . . but precisely as he needed. Relief was immediate, a CEO’s impact come full circle.

This post originally appeared in Memphis Magazine.


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