By Stephanie Costolo       Photos By Bob Thompson – Thompson Brand Images

The woman who is now the CEO of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel was once a little girl living on the wheat fields in Kansas, dreaming about becoming a nurse. Denyse Bales-Chubb grew up wanting to be a nurse, just like her grandmother and great-grandmother. She’d watch them work and listen to their stories, and even asked for a nurse’s outfit and bag for Christmas. From the time she can remember, it’s all she ever wanted to be. Fast forward to today, and Denyse has been the CEO of a hospital since 2014, which—after less than three years of opening—began undergoing a $78-million expansion that will nearly double the number of patient, operating, and emergency rooms.

I had never been inside the lobby of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel before the date of the interview with Denyse. On that day, Wesley Chapel was just starting to get hit with the rain and winds from Tropical Storm Colin. The skies were gray, and rain turned from a drizzle into a full force rainstorm without much warning. The umbrella I had didn’t do much to protect my outfit from the rain being blown on me from the side, but at least my hair was mostly dry. I sloshed my way through puddles in the parking lot, silently regretting my decision to wear heels—but in hindsight, the only other option that would have kept my feet dry would have been galoshes, and that’s just not cute with a pencil skirt. So, I sloshed, in my heels, wet pencil skirt, and semi-dry hair, into the main entrance of the hospital.

You’d think I’d be all sorts of frazzled at that point but as soon as I walked in, the calm, tranquil environment put me right at ease. The dramatic three-story wall of windows grabbed my attention as I walked my soggy self to a seat by a piano at which classical music was being played. I have to admit; I don’t think I’ve ever become quite so relaxed in a hospital lobby before that moment. I contentedly sat, listening to the piano play while I awaited my appointment, inwardly appreciating how the aesthetics of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel give it more of an upscale hotel lobby feel than a health care facility.

As Denyse Bales-Chubb welcomed my colleague and I into her office, immediately apparent was the presence about her; an air of professionalism, decisiveness and warmth. She listens intently and addresses each point seamlessly. Clearly, this is a woman who knows what she wants to say and articulates it well, but could we go beyond that? Could we get to know the woman behind the title? Could we identify what the hospital’s goals, accolades and expansion looks like from the inside out, rather than looking from the outside in? Denyse takes us on that journey, intertwining the efforts of those who came before her at the hospital, and her personal journey of becoming the President and CEO of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel.

RM (Resident Magazine)- What were your most formative experiences as a child which helped lead you to this position and your current level of success?

DBC (Denyse Bales-Chubb)- I grew up on a wheat farm in Kansas; my great-grandmother and grandmother were both nurses, and that’s what I wanted to be. I watched them work and heard their stories and from the time I can remember, that’s all I ever wanted to be. For Christmas, I asked for a nurse’s outfit and a nurse’s bag, and I always wanted to go visit my grandmother at the hospital and see her working. When I graduated from high school, I worked at the hospital as a nurse’s aid. (laughs) It was during that time that I realized, I don’t do well when other people are throwing up. I start getting the whole gag reflex, and I just need to leave the room, so I needed to find something a little bit different (than nursing). Luckily, my mother, grandfather, my aunt, and uncle were all medical technologists and worked in the lab, so I became a medical technologist. I worked on the clinical side for several years before going back for my master’s in Healthcare Administration. I’ve had the pleasure of working in just about every different aspect of healthcare that there is. I have worked on the physician management side—the companies that run physician offices. I’ve worked for insurance companies and have seen how health insurance companies manage populations and take care of people’s health. I’ve also worked on the hospital side of things and have seen how all three of these major entities try to work together to deliver healthcare to the people in our communities. I think those experiences have given me a very good perspective on making sure you communicate more, not less, with all of these entities and that you just have to negotiate and continually work towards what is going to be the best for the patient. As long as you keep the patient at the center of it, then typically things will work out.

RM- What’s a favorite memory of when you visited the hospital while your grandmother was working there?

DBC- She would like to take us to where the little babies were. Back then, it was a small hospital, and they didn’t have the security (that they do now). She’d open the little curtain, and she would go back behind and lift the little babies up and tell us their names. My grandmother, Drussilla Fox, she was always in the white uniform with the white stockings, the cap always on top. She wore her cap until she retired at seventy-something years old. When you love your work, it’s just hard to give it up. She loved it, and I love what I do. My great-grandmother used to pull out her scrapbook—because that’s what you did back then, you scrapbooked—she would show me her grades in all of the classes she took in nursing school. They were two very strong role models. Back then, women didn’t do those types of roles, and for your grandmother and great-grandmother to have been RNs and worked out of the home like that, it wasn’t very common.

RM- What were you doing before you took over as the President and CEO of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel? 

DBC- I was the administrator for two small hospitals in central California. One was a 50-bed hospital and the other was a 48-bed hospital. They were 12 miles apart, and I would run back and forth between them.

RM- What are you most proud thus far about your time at the hospital?

DBC- I would have to say two things. One is building relationships with the physicians and the employees. It’s great to have the opportunity to connect with whom you get to work with, and even though I’m up here in this office, I love to get out and meet the staff and talk with them. (I like to) find out what they’re up to, what makes them tick, and what they enjoy. I think that when you have those relationships, it just makes life so much better. The other thing would be the expansion. It was thought that the original building would last five years, and in two and a half years it was maxed out, so we really had to get that kicked off and going.

RM- Do you foresee another expansion within the next ten or so years?

DBC- Oh yes, absolutely. The certificate of need that was filed with the state actually allows us to go up to almost a 300-bed hospital, so the whole hospital was designed with the intention that as the community grew and needed the additional services, the hospital would grow with it. The community has really exploded, growing at a much faster rate than anybody expected it to, so it’s up to the hospital to make sure we keep pace with that growth and accommodate the services that the community needs.

RM- How many beds does the hospital have now?

DBC- We are at eighty-three, and we will go up to one hundred forty-five with the expansion. We will be doubling our emergency department rooms, going from eighteen to thirty-five rooms, and doubling the operating room suites as well.

RM- With the expansion, will there be increased job supply?

DBC- Oh yes, there will definitely be new jobs created by the expansion. The way we staff any hospital is based on the number of patients we are caring for, so as the volume grows, we will continue to add staff across the board – some in nursing, ancillary services, lab, x-ray, nutritional services, etc. In the first year, we expect forty-five to fifty new positions, and when all of the beds are fully operational, we will probably go up to two hundred – two hundred and fifty or so. Certain parts of the expansion will be finished before the others, and as they’re finished and approved by the state, we’re going to open them up.

RM- What is something that most Wesley Chapel residents don’t know about the hospital that you feel they should know?

DBC- We have a team of dedicated physicians and employees who come here every single day giving 110%, to make sure that they deliver the best care to our community here. People here are truly engaged and want to be here at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. This is their employer of choice, and some of them drive a long distance to be here. They truly want to be part of this community and part of this hospital.

We’ve kept up our quality and patient experience even though we have been so busy and have construction going on. Press Ganey (www.pressganey.com) surveys patients across the country on their patient experience, and they report the results on the hospitals. We were in the top 5% of hospitals across the country for a one-year period. From Healthgrades (www.healthgrades.com), we received an Outstanding Patient Experience award, which goes to the top 25% of hospitals across the country. Our quality and outcomes continue to be very high, and I think it’s indicative of the culture we’ve built into everything we do.

RM- What initiatives currently exist here to end chronic illnesses and diseases at their root cause rather than treating the symptoms after people are diagnosed?

DBC- We have our Health and Wellness Center. They have a host of classes that they offer to the community (most are) free of charge. The classes cover all the major topics—diabetes, asthma, chronic heart failure, obesity, etc. If a patient comes in as an inpatient with diabetes and it’s out of control, our hospital will work with the Health and Wellness Center to get the patient into a class and attending a few sessions, and hopefully, they will decide they want to continue to attend in order to keep their lives more in balance.

Our diabetes program includes the patient working with a personal trainer, nutrition counselor, and they get a free membership to the Health and Wellness Center for three months while they’re going through the program, and it’s entirely free. We’ve sponsored it through our foundation and the grant through our corporate team to do that.

You can either self-refer or your physician can refer you into the program. Our program helps you really truly learn how to re-live life. You’re getting both diet and exercise tips, and they monitor how you’re working out and help you to do it correctly. They also can tell you when you shouldn’t push it so hard. It’s a very in-depth class to help you manage your diabetes.

We also have a free twelve-week program for cancer survivors called “Vitality”. It’s a program where they get one-on-one time with a nutrition counselor, personal trainer, and they get a free membership to the Health and Wellness Club.

RM- Tell me about your family. 

DBC- My husband’s name is Jack Chubb(pictured left, with Denyse). We’ll have been married twenty years this December. He was a hospital CEO for over thirty-five years, and now that he’s retired, he has gotten into restaurant franchises; he owns the Dickey’s BBQ across the street from here. He opened a brand new one in Sarasota, and now he’s looking at a third one in the Brandon area. Jack has three kids; I personally have never had any children. After we were married for five years, all three came to live with us, so I became an instant mom.  They were about seven, nine, and twelve. I actually quit working for a couple of years to take care of the kids, and—to tell you the truth—it was scary at first. But it was a very rewarding experience, and we’re all very close today. Matthew is the oldest, and he is twenty-nine. Bryan is going to be twenty-six soon and works for his father as the lead in his Sarasota store. Tiffany is 23, is in California, and wants to be an elementary education teacher. She graduated with all her college requirements and is working on her teaching certificate.

RM- On the weekends when it’s time to relax, what are you doing?

DBC- My husband and I walk every single day and try to spend time outside. We like to explore the different beaches, as well as submerge ourselves in whatever’s happening. We’ve done a lot of hockey games, the Bucs games; we’ve gone to a lot of concerts in the area. We’re just pretty much up for about anything.

RM- Do you have a favorite quote?

DBC – I actually do. My favorite quote is by Helen Keller, and it is, “Life is an adventure or it is nothing at all.” I truly believe that’s the way you need to live your life. It’s an adventure every single day, and you just face it and embrace it and go for it every day.

RM- What’s the most influential book you’ve ever read?

DBC- I’m a fairly religious person so I’d have to go back to the Bible. My parents used to read us bible stories every night before we’d go to bed. It’s amazing how you go back to those stories and draw strength from them. It’s amazing to me how the culture was back then and the role that women played and how their lives played out. It blows my mind.

RM- Do you have any morning rituals or things that you do to get ready for the day?

DBC- I get up every single morning and go for a run, try to do a little weight lifting and exercising, and take time to read scripture out of the Bible, and then it’s off to the races.

RM- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

DBC- “Stay in school.” I was not a student. I just couldn’t sit still. I wanted to be outside, and I had the attention span of a gnat, but I stuck with it and stayed in school. I was the first one in my family to go back and get a master’s degree, which really surprised my family. Healthcare administration just made sense to me, and it was all so logical, and I loved it. It wasn’t like going to school; it was like getting up every day and learning something new and wonderful.

RM- Tell me something you’re really not very good at?

DBC- I have no rhythm. They do these ‘happy videos’ here at work, and you’re supposed to snap along with the music, and I am the worst! I have been asked to step out of jazzercise classes (laughs). I was so uncoordinated; I was throwing the whole class off!

RM- What music was playing in your car the last time you drove somewhere?

DBC- It was The Pulse, which is a satellite station. It’s modern pop, and I like it because it plays upbeat songs and songs that I like…because I sing in my car.

RM- If you could put up a billboard anywhere and have it say anything, where would you put it, and what would it say?

DBC- That’s a tough one. I’d want everybody to see it, so I’m not sure where to place something that everybody could see. It would say, “Take time today to love somebody.”

Denyse Bale-Chubb was my port in the storm. A massive thunderstorm was brewing that day on the outside of the hospital but on the inside, I was speaking to a strong woman. A calming woman. A leader. I was so comfortable and at ease that I had forgotten about my soggy clothes and wet feet.  Learning from two strong, passionate role-models who loved their work, persevering through studies which didn’t come easy, and drawing strength from her faith, Denyse proves herself to be a hard worker who cares about her staff and the patients who walk through the doors of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. There is certainly a lot to be proud of as members of the Wesley Chapel, New Tampa communities. Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel is a shining example of the growth and innovation exemplified by the residents of this community.

This article is dedicated in loving memory to Drussilla Fox, who passed away on June 20, 2016 at the age of ninety-seven.  

You left me beautiful memories. Your love is still my guide. And though we cannot see you,  you’re always at my side. ~ Unknown Author