Inside Texas Tech: Hospice of Lubbock

Jan 12, 2018

Texas Tech alum Dr. Jeremy Brown knows that trying to fill the shoes of his predecessor at Hospice of Lubbock isn’t realistic. But he’s dedicated to working every day to ensure the nonprofit is the best it can be and continues to provide dignity and relief to those in its care. Brown is also the medical director of the organization.

Charlie Wasson served as executive director at Hospice of Lubbock for eight years before his sudden and unexpected death in May. His successor, Dr. Jeremy Brown, will now serve as both executive director and medical director.

“It’s not that I’m wearing one hat for five minutes and then switching hats, I’m wearing both hats at the same time,” he explains. “Medicine in general is 24 hours—that hasn’t changed. I get phone calls at two o’clock in the morning when our patients need symptom management…yes it is more work, but the nature of my work allows me to do both at the same time.”

Brown graduated with his bachelor’s degree in music in 1999 and went on to get his medical degree from the University of Texas Health and Sciences Center at Houston Medical School. He did his residency there in internal medicine and pediatrics.

After finishing his residency, he returned to Lubbock to be an adult hospitalist with the Covenant Medical Group. About a year later, in late 2010, he became the medical director at Hospice of Lubbock.

Brown acknowledges he’s climbing a slight learning curve on the business side in his new post, which became official in late July.

“That’s something that I don’t take lightly and that I—I’m not struggling with, but I know that I have a lot to learn,” Brown says. “So, you surround yourself with good people and there are people who already know our budget, who can teach me how to finesse those number and understand those numbers. So that is one challenge I have moving into 2018.”

Brown says he will focus on grassroots efforts to guide Hospice of Lubbock, visiting officials at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Lubbock and 18 surrounding communities. He believes his clinically based approach will be welcomed.

“I’m not just looking at it from a business aspect,” he says. “As an administrator, as the executive director, you have to think about cost, and you have to think about reimbursement. But as a physician my first focus, and always will be, the patient. My brain is trained to be the clinician first and then the administrator second.”

There’s a subtle reset happening, Brown says. Some staff members have moved on in the seven months since Wasson’s death and the number of patients served by the nonprofit has dropped a bit. He and those replacing departed staff will bring fresh eyes to the operation.

In its 31 years, Hospice of Lubbock has never turned anyone away. Medicare covers 100 percent of the cost of hospice.

“In 31 years, we’ve never said ‘no,’” he says. “It does present challenges. You have to take care of patients who are funded, in order to be able to take care of un-funded patients, you have to rely on the generosity of the people of Lubbock and the surrounding communities to make those donations.”

The organization also has two other areas of focus. One is for veterans, called We Honor Veterans, and the other deals with children. Brown says it’s not unusual for family members to wonder about the best time to reach out for hospice care for their loved ones.

“Death is hard. Death is a lot harder for a nine-year-old than a 90-year-old. So it really does help us to be involved earlier, especially in the pediatric care. But even our adult patients, I’ve never had anyone say, ‘wow we called hospice too early.’ People always say to us, ‘I wish I’d called hospice three months ago,” Brown says.

Brown is clear about his purpose at Hospice of Lubbock. “My mission at Hospice of Lubbock is to make sure that people understand that there is quality care at the end of life. Nobody wants to admit that their life is going to end, but when you get that diagnosis, there are people in this community that will love you and help you through it and promise to give you death with dignity.”