Shawn Lyden, chief strategy officer, thought he wanted to become a doctor when he first began his college career (it was his father’s idea). Changing gears, he landed in law school, but the irony that he still ended up working in a hospital isn’t lost on him.
“I often say I fell into health care as a profession,” he said. “As a lawyer, I chose health law as a specialty simply because it seemed interesting, and I liked the people I would be working with. I’m so glad I made that choice as it set the trajectory for the rest of my career.”
Prior to joining Akron Children’s in 2008 as executive vice president and general counsel, he worked as an attorney at Akron law firm Brouse McDowell.
Tell us about your background and role on ELT.
I grew up on the east side of Cleveland, living in Warrensville Heights and Chagrin Falls. I also lived for a brief period in northern New Jersey (1st through 6th grades) when my father was transferred to New York City for work. That was a fun time for me as a kid but not so much for my father because of his commute to Manhattan.
At Brouse McDowell, I spent a substantial amount of time working for Akron Children’s, getting to know former hospital president and CEO Bill Considine, his management team and the board leadership very well. In 2007, Mr. C. asked me to join his team at the hospital permanently. After talking with my most trusted advisor, my wife, and Mark Watson, former COO, I enthusiastically accepted the position. Mr. C. likes to say he rescued me ‘from the dark side.’ I’m eternally grateful he did! In 2010, I moved out of the general counsel role and happily gave up the practice of law permanently.
I’ve been a member of ELT from its beginning. The purpose of ELT was and is to promote collaborative decision making, enhance communication and break down silos. I believe ELT has succeeded in achieving its purpose. I’m proud to see how the group has grown and evolved.
Tell us a little about your role as Chief Strategy Officer.
The primary focus of my role is strategy and business development. Strategy is the internal part of my role and business development is the external part. Strategy involves working with my ELT colleagues and others to plan Akron Children’s future success as an independent, community-governed pediatric health system. Business development focuses on helping Akron Children’s continue to grow, keeping us financially strong, and enabling us to improve the health and well-being of more children and families every year.
In addition to my team in strategy and business development, Public Relations and Marketing, External Affairs and the Innovation Center report to me.
What do you like about working at Akron Children’s?
It’s humbling for me as a non-clinical person to play a role in supporting our incredible front-line clinical staff. Helping children and families in need is why I’m here and why I would never consider working anywhere else.
Why is employee engagement important to you?
We simply can’t be successful achieving our mission without an engaged workforce. Our people are our ‘secret sauce.’ They create the special culture at Akron Children’s. There is nothing more important to me than having a committed team of caregivers and other employees.
If you didn’t work in health care leadership, what would your dream job be?
I’d love to be a professional chef or a rock and roll musician. I love good food and music.
Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Amy, for over 20 years. We live in Hudson and have a blended family of four adult children – Ali (33), Austin (30), Molly (28) and Jack (26). We have two amazing grandchildren, Palmer (almost 5) and Auggie (18 months). We also have a third one on the way in February, another boy!
How do you relax?
Relaxing for me primarily involves hanging out with my wife and two dogs, Maya and Louis. Maya is a former member of the Doggie Brigade. I also relax (and stay healthy) through exercise. I’m an avid runner but have added other types of exercise as I’ve grown older. I’m obsessed with my Peloton bike and have recently added other Peloton exercise classes to my routine. During COVID, I started taking long, vigorous walks with my wife. Cooking also helps me unwind. I’ve developed a new cooking skill during the pandemic, baking ‘healthy’ desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Most interesting place you’ve been and why?
Lake Como, Italy. We visited Lake Como when our oldest daughter spent a semester in Florence. Aside from a stressful drive on very narrow, winding roads (we got lost), it was the most beautiful, charming and peaceful place I’ve ever visited. George Clooney has good taste–he has a home in Lake Como.
What was your first paying job?
Beginning in 8th grade, I worked at a local greenhouse. A side benefit of the job was learning about plants. To this day, I enjoy working in our garden and still know quite a bit about flowers and other plants; however, I’m not sure I can say I have a green thumb.
What would you change about yourself if you could?
I’d be taller, at least 6’.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra you live by?
My parents always said, “everyone puts their pants on the same way.” I try to live my life by this saying and treat every person with dignity and respect. This saying is another variation of our promise “treat others the way they want to be treated.”
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I went to college knowing I would attend graduate school. My father was the first in his family to graduate from college and believed each generation in a family should achieve more than their predecessors. He apparently thought I’d make a good doctor so I began college as a pre-med student. I soon realized that I really didn’t enjoy science and math. My skills in those areas were not what I thought they were. It’s ironic that I still ended up in the medical field but through a different, non-traditional path.