LaPlace hospital’s new CEO brings playfulness to position

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 26, 2013

by Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – Robert Lee Marshall Jr., who was recently named CEO of River Parishes Hospital, did not always dream of being a hospital administrator. When he was a child, he wanted to be a physical therapist because his mother worked in hospital environments most of her life.
“Starting off into college, that (physical therapy degree) didn’t work out, so I went and got my business degree and did my master’s in health administration,” Marshall said.
By way of explanation Marshall said, with a dimpled grin, “I couldn’t pass physics.”
But Marshall didn’t let that roadblock keep him from pursuing career in health care.
“I enjoy working in the health care field because it’s always an integral part of the community,” he said. “You always need a hospital in the community, and I enjoy being part of that in a community.”
The 49-year-old father of three and grandfather of two was born in Texas but raised in central Louisiana — Pineville, to be exact. Over the years, however, he has moved around quite a bit for various jobs.
Before accepting his current position, Marshall worked at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center where he began as chief operating officer and advanced to the role of chief administrative officer. Prior to that, Marshall was chief operating officer of Baxter Regional Medical Center in Arkansas. He also served as chief executive officer of Valley View Regional Hospital in Oklahoma. Additionally, he has held positions at Providence Medford Medical Center in Oregon, Regional Health Center in Mississippi, Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma and Rapids Regional Medical Center in Louisiana.
Marshall is a bit of a rolling stone but says that moving around is vital to career advancement.
“You do that when you try to advance your career. You move up, you become assistant vice president, vice president, you become assistant administrator then administrator,” he said. “To take advantage of those opportunities you’ve got to move. Hopefully I’ll be here for a while.”
Marshall’s history in Louisiana and his admiration for River Parishes Hospital’s parent company, Lifepoint, was what ultimately made him decide to settle here.
“My mother lives in central Louisiana,” he said. “I always have wanted to get back to my home state, so I narrowed my search to south Texas and Louisiana, and this is one the opportunities that came up. I was blessed enough to get an interview and get the job offer.”
Besides the familial draw, Marshall is also a fan of the local cuisine.
“I love gumbo and crawfish so much — I’m a roux person all day long. I’ve talked to more real Cajuns down here, and I’m embarrassed to say that when I cook it, I use the jar roux,” he said. “My mother handed down a recipe to me a long time ago. I don’t know where it came from. It’s just our old family recipe. My problem with my recipes is that I don’t usually get it thick enough. That’s about the only thing I can cook.”
Marshall said he also makes a point of staying active.
 “I’m extremely competitive, but as I get older, I’m enjoying it more and I’m less worried about winning,” he said. “It’s about exercise now, getting out there and working up a good sweat.”
One of Marshall’s goals for his administration is to make the surrounding area healthier.
“I see at some point in time that our nation is going to have to start focusing on its health. Our community’s going to have to kick in there and help us out, be responsible for their health,” he said.  “My goal for the administration is to make the River Parishes more healthy that it was when I came here.”
Another goal is to foster a good relationship between the hospital and the community.
“Every week we go over our patient satisfaction scores. Then we disseminate that information down to the departments. Every department has a bulletin board with their scores up so they can see how their department did and what they need to continue to do or improve on,” he said. “Who did great, we celebrate those successes. That’s always in front of us, we’re staring it down all the time.”
As for employees morale, Marshall has been known to give employees new cars if they’ve done something very special. These cars, however, are more at home on a shelf than in a driveway as they are Hot Wheels cars.
 “It’s still in the box, even has what kind of car it is on the box. I’m down to only two, so I’ll have to go back to Targ — I mean the car lot,” he said, mischievously. “Everybody wants my cars. I have a Pontiac Judge. I thought she was going to take the Ferrari today but she took the Corvette.”
Leaning back and considering his recent good fortune, Marshall said, “It’s just a fit for me, and I’ve been really blessed to get this opportunity. I feel like I’m back home. I love it here.”