Dr. Owen B. “Bev” EvansChairman emeritus, Department of Pediatrics and Professor emeritus, Pediatric Neurology, University of Mississippi Medical Center
Dr. Owen B. Evans has dedicated his life, both personal and professional, to advancing health care for Mississippi’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Few can match his devotion to helping the state’s sick and injured children. Having served as chairman of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics from 1989-2010, his singular focus was doing what was best for children.
His list of accomplishments during that time shows that he was a man with a mission: developing new pediatric programs, recruiting subspecialists and promoting multimillion-dollar building projects to provide comprehensive care for children in the state, including the Mississippi Children’s Cancer Clinic, the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, a sur-gical suite, the Eli Manning Children’s Clinics, the Colonel Harland Sanders Children’s Emergency Department and the Selby and Richard McRae Children’s Trauma Unit.
His vision for how children should be treated was the foundation for the Batson Children’s Hospital, designed and built under his direction. “I like to make things. To me, that was the most fun, to seize the opportunities to grow something for the state,” he said. Evans’ motivation was a desire to provide Mississippi’s children with the best health care avail-able right here at home. He did not want them to have to leave the state to get their care.
Along with construction projects, Evans added to the department’s faculty, hiring pediat-ric specialists and working with community pediatricians to build relationships. In 1989, the pediatrics department had 19 physicians; there were more than 80 when he stepped down as chairman.
One of the faculty members who joined the department during the growth was Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs at UMMC. He was a pediatric urologist under Evans. Keeton became close to Evans, helping him build the pediatric surgery program and traveling with him around the state to visit community pediatricians.
“Bev’s No. 1 accomplishment besides improving facilities, which he did, was to increase the number of general pediatricians in the state. He moved pediatric care up to an incred-ibly high level. That is a huge legacy,” Keeton said.
When Evans joined the UMMC faculty, there were philanthropic efforts underway to support the Children’s Hospital. But few could imagine what was to come. With his appointment as chair, Evans requested that a new fundraising organization for the hos-pital be formed, Friends of Children’s Hospital.
He knew it was possible to bring together groups already supporting the hospital—the Junior League of Jackson, Children’s Miracle Network, Ronald McDonald House, and the UMC Candlelighters. He knew by working together they could create something bigger and better. And they did. Through the work of Friends, health care for Mississippi’s children has improved. And it was Evans’ vision, his nurturing of this organization and his ability to inspire others to give back, to become philanthropists themselves that have made the difference.
Suzan Thames, the first president of the Friends Board, remembers when Evans asked her to help establish the fundraising group. She said she had no idea how ambitious his plans were for the hospital. “He just kept plugging and said we could do it. His whole spirit, his whole attitude was we could do it. He made me a believer.”
Evans’ leadership helped changed philanthropy at the Children’s Hospital. In 1989, gifts totaled about $200,000 a year. More than $5 million was given to Batson in his last year as chairman and most was raised by volunteers he helped inspire. He graciously acknowledges the help of countless volunteers and donors, but he was often the face of the hospital during this critical growth period.
As pediatrics chairman, he served as the medical director for Children’s Hospital, the state’s only facility designed exclusively for children. While serving as the hospital’s physician leader, he also continued to treat patients. A pediatric neurologist, one of only a few at Batson, Evans began his tenure at UMMC as division chief for pediatric neurol-ogy in 1983 and continued treating patients until June 2013.
While both caring for patients and leading the Children’s Hospital, Evans has reached out to his community in ways that most of his colleagues don’t even know about. Each year he travels to Honduras with a church group on a medical mission. He treats children in remote parts of the country who otherwise would not have the chance to see a doctor.
He also serves as the physician for the Muscular Dystrophy camp. He stays there to ensure that the medical needs of the campers are met. For many of these young children who face a life-threatening illness, the camp is an important part of their lives. It’s also an important time for their families who have a week off from caring round the clock for their children—thanks, in part, to Dr. Evans.
Evans is not only a gifted physician but also has become quite an accomplished artist. To own one of his paintings is rare because he does not sell his art. It can only be acquired by donating to a charity. He regularly donates paintings for art auctions and 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of these pieces benefit the charities.
He is active with the Mississippi Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics and regularly speaks with local committees, churches and civic groups on children’s health issues.
As a member of the Community Advisory Council for the Mississippi Children’s Museum, Evans brought his knowledge of children’s health care to this special project. He was invit-ed to serve on this committee by the Junior League of Jackson. He’s worked for many years with the Junior League to reach their common goal of improving the lives of children.
Evans served on the Make-A-Wish Foundation board of directors and the Epilepsy Foundation board of directors. He was a founding member of the Parents of Public Schools board of directors. As part of his commitment to public education, he served as the superintendent of the Children’s Hospital School. His vision for healthy kids included education. Saving lives is not enough—he believes that all of the patients deserve an education, and he has made sure they’ve gotten one while in the hospital’s care.
He also served on the board for Mississippi’s only Ronald McDonald House and was in-strumental in helping build the “home-away-from- home” to help support families in need.
He graduated from Vanderbilt University Medical School in 1973, and interned at Children’s Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle. After a tour in the Navy and service in the Medical Corps he returned to Vanderbilt where he found his passion in children’s health care. He completed his residency in pediatric neurology in 1980 and served on the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital faculty until 1983 when he moved to Mississippi. Five years later, he was appointed the second chair for the Department of Pediatrics, following Dr. Blair E. Batson.
In addition to his chairman duties, he served on numerous committees at UMMC and in a leadership role with University Physicians. He was president of the Medical Staff and of Clinical Associates. He received awards for his work in the field of pediatric neurology, is credited with 24 book chapters, 17 abstracts, 58 peer reviews and 12 articles, and received the Holliman Award for Excellence in Teaching.
In 2009, he was awarded VIP Magazine’s Philanthropist of the Year award and in 2011, the UMMC Alliance named Evans and his wife honorary chairs of the Taste of the U. It’s the tradition of the volunteer support group to recognize individuals who have dedicated themselves to the institution, the community and the state. Evans said his wife Lynn is his biggest supporter. “Without her, I would not have been able to do what I did,” he said.
A writer and frequent columnist, Lynn Evans is an advocate for the health needs of Missis-sippi’s children. She said her husband wanted the hospital to belong to the community and serve as a source of pride in the state. “When he has a vision, not only can he see where he needs to go but he’s very good at planning how to get there,” she said. “When we first came here people didn’t realize the importance of getting specialty care for children. Now we have a community who knows where Children’s Hospital is and wants to support it. That was really his vision.”
Evans and his wife Lynn have two grown children. Their son, Owen, a musician, shares his love of the arts with his Dad. And daughter Kathryn, inspired by her father, is now a pediatrician. They have two grandchildren, Aiden and Ella Kate.
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Board of Directors
Dr. Barbara Goodman, MeridianPresident
Dr. Erik Richardson, OxfordPresident-elect
Mr. Geoffrey C. MitchellDirector, Alumni Affairs
Mrs. Ginger Roby Daniels, MadisonAssociate Director, Alumni Affairs
Dr. Karen Hand, GulfportDr. Rafique Ahmad, MeridianDr. Diana Entrekin, MadisonDr. Tim Folse, Germantown, TNDr. Mark Phillips, MeridianDr. Alan Lovell, GulfportDr. Ralph Sulser, JacksonDr. William E Tew, RidgelandDr. Rick Guynes, Ridgeland
Dr. Greg Patino, Ocean SpringsDr. William "Bill" Rogers, AmoryDr. George "Trey" Abraham, Madison
Dr. Bruce Longest, BruceDr. Bill Craven, MemphisDr. Robert Cooper, OxfordDr. Mary Currier, RidgelandDr. John Holland, HattiesburgDr. Ray Montalvo, BrookhavenDr. David Ben Moore, TupeloDr. Carlton Gorton, BelzoniDr. Mark Horne, LaurelDr. Luke Lampton, Magnolia
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