Leadership Chattanooga Alumni Spotlight: Don Mueller

By Natalie Martin

Leadership Chattanooga is a 10-month leadership development program that allows local professionals opportunities to learn more about and engage with the community where they live and work. Leadership Chattanooga has been a launching pad for the careers and civic impact of some of Chattanooga’s most prominent professionals. We’re here to share their stories and catch up on what’s happened since they completed the program.

This month, Don Mueller, Vice President and CEO of Children's Hospital at Erlanger, shares insights about the health care landscape in Chattanooga and how strong relationships across a variety of disciplines empower our community.

Trend: When did you graduate from Leadership Chattanooga?

Mueller: I’m a proud graduate of Leadership Class of 2017, more commonly known as the best class ever.

Trend: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do (for work and for fun)?

Mueller: I’m the CEO of Children’s Hospital at Erlanger where I am responsible for making sure medical staff have what they need to take care of children in the 50,000-square-mile service area. I am also responsible for financial management, clinical outcomes and quality, and patient safety.

I am blessed to be married to an amazing woman and we have three great kids. I spend the majority of my free time at gymnastics meets, baseball fields and theater performances watching my children do remarkable things.

Trend: Name one way you think you have impacted the community.

Mueller: Transforming pediatric care through the construction of the Kennedy Outpatient Center, recruiting over 50 pediatric specialists to the community and decreasing wait times for access to specialty care. All of this would not be possible without the generous support of donors and the community.

I’m also extremely proud of the Howard School’s Future Ready Institute for health care. This started as an idea by Sarah Morgan, President of the Benwood Foundation, after the Woodmore bus accident. We brainstormed on how we could both help build a workforce, but also instill hope in a community. I’m excited about how far the program has come and what the future looks like for the program, as well as these students.

Trend: What drew you to the Leadership Chattanooga program when you applied?

Mueller: I previously attended Leadership Atlanta and was extremely impressed with the immediate relationships and connections. My experience at Leadership Chattanooga was amazing and in a very short period of time created relationships with diverse groups of individuals from many different industries. These relationships have empowered us to move the ball to positively impact social determinants of health, education and early child development.

Trend: How has your career been impacted by the program?

Mueller: My career revolves around improving the lives of children and families. This experience enabled me to help transform the way pediatric care is delivered, and provided partnerships that immediately impacted the social determinants of health. From a career standpoint, I often strive to have the largest impact I can. Leadership Chattanooga has helped me increase my impact on this great community.

Trend: What practices do you follow (personally or professionally) that help you achieve success?

Mueller: Boy Scout teaching: 

  • Always leave the campsite better than you found it 
  • Be kind to people and tough on results
  • Always show up, even if you don’t know what you’re going to do to help
  • Everything you need to learn about leadership can be found in the Bible
  • Focus on end results, not the barriers in the way

Trend: What advice would you give someone who is looking for ways to become more connected to the community?

Mueller: Connections and relationships only happen when you meet people and truly learn about them. Get out in the community and be open to creating new friendships. Chattanooga is an amazingly warm community that accepts people from diverse backgrounds. There is a place for everyone; you just have to go find it. Definitely go apply for Leadership Chattanooga, you won’t regret it.


Learn more about Leadership Chattanooga here.