Children’s Hospital & Medical Center’s new president and CEO, who starts work in September, is a hospital executive who has spent her career in pediatric health care.
Chanda Chacón, who was selected through a national search, succeeds Rodrigo López, who has served as interim president and CEO since July 2019.
Chacón, 42, comes to Omaha from Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, where she has been executive vice president and system chief operating officer since 2016.
Before joining the Arkansas health system, she spent 14 years at Texas Children’s Hospital. There, she served in leadership roles in such areas as ambulatory operations, the heart center, women’s services and the pharmacy.
Chacón said that at Children’s she will focus first on listening to and learning from the hospital’s leadership team, its medical staff, community physicians and the families the hospital serves “to really understand where the community wants us to head and where the children of Nebraska and beyond need us to head.”
“It’s really about being able to build partnerships and collaborative relationships so that we make the right decisions together,” Chacón said. “That’s the kind of leader that I am. I’m very focused on having the right people at the table to make the best decision for the children and the families that we care for.”
Chacón’s hiring comes about a year before the fall 2021 opening of the hospital’s new clinical facility, the Hubbard Center for Children.
Chacón has experience with such expansions. At Arkansas Children’s, she helped open a community hospital in the northwest part of the state, which was a first for the hospital. At Texas Children’s, she was involved in the construction of a maternal hospital, which was a new undertaking for that system.
She said she and her husband, Carlo, are thrilled to be coming to Omaha and to Children’s, which she said has great people in its organization.
Health care, she said, is personal for her.
Chacón, who grew up in Texas, was injured in a car crash as a child. She said she shuttled around the medical system for a couple of years “with really smart parents who were trying to figure out what was wrong with me.”
She had a back problem and couldn’t sit or stand longer than 30 minutes. It was during her middle school years, and she was home-schooled during that time. She saw how challenging that was for her family.
Chacón said she remembers the first physician who actually spoke to her, which she said was a powerful experience. She ultimately underwent a spinal fusion. But during that time, she never visited a children’s hospital.
That, she said, seems crazy to her now, knowing the kind of services a children’s hospital can provide to kids and families.
Chacón said she believes that children deserve what children’s hospitals can provide. “We have people trained to help kids understand what’s happening,” she said, “and that for me was absolutely the reason I’m in health care. I don’t want any family to experience what my family experienced. Families deserve better than that for their children.”
Chacón earned undergraduate degrees in biology and Spanish from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in public health management from Yale University.
López, a former member of the hospital’s board of directors, became interim president and CEO after Dr. Richard Azizkhan announced his retirement from the post.