Taking the Lead: An Inside Look at Eskenazi Health’s Leadership Featuring Robert “Fernow” McClure

This blog post is part of a series titled Taking the Lead: An Inside Look at Eskenazi Health's Leadership. Different leaders throughout Eskenazi Health will be featured, giving an inside look at their work roles, backgrounds, passions and even hobbies. We hope you enjoy learning about some of the exceptional leaders Eskenazi Health is proud to employ.

Now in his eighth year working at Eskenazi Health, Robert “Fernow” McClure was originally hired to be a social worker and now his current title is manager of Eskenazi Health Special Medicine, an area that offers access to medical specialty care physicians by partnering with the patient’s primary care provider to diagnose and manage complex or chronic health care needs.

McClure’s career started in the hospitality industry as one of the youngest food and beverage directors of the Sheraton Corp. He later stumbled upon an opportunity to buy a bankrupt business, which he turned into a three-store operation before selling it. McClure discovered his talent for “flipping” businesses and moved on to a deli, a salon and then tanning beds.

His career direction changed when his partner of 12 years contracted AIDS, and McClure fought many battles with the health care system, legal world and families, because no laws were there to protect people like himself. McClure went back to school to advocate for the lack of protection gays and lesbians had at that time regarding HIV/AIDS. By the time he received his master’s degree from Indiana University in social work, the laws had relaxed so he turned his attention to nonprofit agencies to lend his business expertise to help them develop and grow.

At one point, McClure accepted a job in Washington, D.C., but soon after returned to Indianapolis. He decided he wanted to work in health care and applied for and received employment at Eskenazi Health as a social worker. In addition to his current duties here at Eskenazi Health, McClure teaches leadership classes at Indiana University.

In leading his department, McClure gives ownership of assigned duties to those he supervises, and he says they respond in kind. He spends much of his time “putting out fires” and seeing to it that his team members have what they need to get their jobs done. McClure meets with his team to decide how challenges will be dealt with, and from there he says he simply coaches them.

McClure likes that each day for him at Eskenazi Health is different, and he has to rely on his skillset and flexibility to resolve issues. He also appreciates the autonomy to perform to his capacity, enjoys the problem-solving challenges that come with his job, and particularly loves making a difference in patients’ lives.

Values in the workplace he believes in include integrity, hospitality, humor, hard work, quality work, cheerleading, promoting and being the best human he can be. McClure says his team has similar values, and he thrives in that environment.

McClure, who has been to all 50 states, is always busy during his time away from work. He enjoys working on his house, all things related to his horse, skiing, art, social events, biking, hiking, hammocking, dancing, going to the gym daily, skateboarding, grilling, swimming, teaching and helping others.

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