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HMH names interim CEO

Dr. John Hearnsberger

By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

Dr. John Hearnsberger of Nashville has been named interim CEO at Howard Memorial Hospital.

The HMH board hired Dr. Hearnsberger for the position in a special meeting Feb. 8. 

His first day on the job was Monday, Feb. 12. He spent part of the day in the CEO office at the hospital and part at his office in the surgery clinic across from HMH.

Dr. Hearnsberger is no stranger to Nashville and Howard Memorial. 

He’s a general surgeon, member of the HMH Foundation Board of Directors and served on the hospital board. 

The board “came to the conclusion” to name Dr. Hearnsberger CEO after talking to a prospect “who decided not to come. They asked me if I’d do it, and I said, ‘yes.’”

Dr. Hearnsberger said he has “been around hospitals for 50-plus years. I’ve never run one but think I know something about them.”

The length of Dr. Hearnsberger’s tenure as interim administrator hasn’t been determined. “We’ve talked about six months. It may not last that long. It may be more. It’s not defined yet.”

Dr. Hearnsberger will remain on the call schedule for HMH surgeons, he said. “I’m on call five weeks during the first six months of the year. I plan to keep call.”

As he begins his service as interim CEO, Dr. Hearnsberger said he “has talked to some of the department heads. I plan to rely heavily non them and the executive team to lead me in the right direction. Then, I’ll make the decisions I think are best for the hospital. The decisions 

will be between the board and me at that point.”

A native of Fordyce, Dr. Hearnsberger attended Baylor University on a track for one year, then transferred to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he graduated in 1969. He started medical school then and graduated in 1973 before completing his training in 1978.

Dr. Hearnsberger said he first came to Nashville Thanksgiving 1973. When he was looking at possible sites for his practice, he visited a town in Texas, along with Benton, Fordyce and Nashville.

“I liked Nashville. I grew up in a small town. I was ready to get out and go to work,” Dr. Hearnsberger said.

He began his practice here in 1978 and stayed until 1990 when he moved to Little Rock for 13 years.

When he left, Dr. Hearnsberger said he wanted to return to Nashville to retire.

He came back full-time in 2004 and worked in the surgery clinic with Dr. Luis Barandiaran. “We split the work,” he said. 

Dr. Hearnsberger remained in Nashville when “Dr. B” retired, and Dr. Mark Sutherland and Dr. Bertrand Fonji joined the surgery staff. 

“We really do have a nice rural hospital,” Dr. Hearnsberger said. “We’re fortunate to have it.

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