Fayette County

Psychiatrist says loyalty caused her to turn down top job at Eastern State

Peggy Stephens.
Peggy Stephens.

The psychiatrist who has decided not to take the appointment to lead Eastern State Hospital at its new $129 million Lexington campus said she changed her mind out of loyalty to the Indiana hospital she now leads.

Peggy Stephens, a Louisville native and a former part-time physician at Eastern State, was to start work as chief administrative officer and chief medical officer on July 1, at an annual salary of $300,000. Her appointment was announced earlier this month.

Stephens said in an interview Wednesday that she simply decided that she did not want to leave Madison State Hospital in Madison, Ind., where she has been superintendent, chief executive officer and medical director since 2005.

"It was totally the loyalty and my heartstrings for my current hospital," Stephens said. "I wish them all the best. It's going to be a fantastic hospital."

The new 239-bed Eastern State Hospital, on UK's Coldstream Research Campus, is set to open in early September.

The 300,000-square-foot hospital has been described as state-of-the-art. In addition to providing acute inpatient treatment, it will feature a broad range of services and classes to ease patients' transition into the community. Eastern State's programs include four personal-care homes that encourage the development of transitional life skills; a neurobehavioral unit for patients with brain injuries; and a long-term care unit for patients with psychiatric disabilities.

Stephens' Kentucky ties included receiving her medical degree at the UK College of Medicine. A former faculty member of Harvard University Medical School, she is a past president of the Kentucky Medical Psychiatric Association.

UK has relaunched the national search for a leader of Eastern State Hospital and has several outstanding applicants from the initial search, UK spokeswoman Kristi Lopez said Tuesday.