Emlyn “Em” Cobble has juggled many hats throughout her career, but all of them have been worn at one place, Parkwest Medical Center, where she celebrated 40 years of service. Cobble is Vice President and Chief Support Officer for Parkwest, where she began her career in 1976 as a medical technologist. She graduated from Lincoln Memorial University with a degree in chemistry and completed an internship at St. Mary’s as a medical technologist. “I knew that I wanted to work in a bigger laboratory and hospital than my hometown in Greene County could offer, so I applied for jobs in Knoxville.”
The hospital offered Cobble a solid start and opportunities to grow throughout her career. In her early days at Parkwest, she relied not only on her skills as a chemist, but also on those gained on the 200 acre farm where she was raised. Working alongside her father, as his chief assistant, Cobble learned tenacity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. That grit and determination soon led her from lab tech to Chief Technologist of the lab. By 1990, Cobble advanced again and was named Director of Clinical Services. She embarked on what would be her most rewarding venture and her toughest days.
Cobble’s next large scale achievement was as the facility liaison of a massive renovation, expansion and modernization project in 2002, leading to the opening of the Riverstone Tower in 2005. With the improvements, Parkwest gained 326,000 square feet of new construction, bringing about huge change to the organization, according to Cobble. “This was the most rewarding project of my career, primarily because it made such a difference for our patients” she said. A winner of multiple Tennessee Quality Awards, Parkwest is ranked consistently among top hospitals for customer service by PRC, a national research firm focusing on patient satisfaction.
While Cobble experienced the pinnacle of her career after the Riverstone Tower project, she encountered one of her most difficult challenges a few years later. On April 19, 2010, a lone gunman opened fire at a patient discharge area of the hospital, fatally wounding a female staff member and injuring two others. Recanting through tear-filled eyes, she described the resiliency of the Parkwest staff. They forged on supported by grief counselors and each other.
That comradery contributed to Cobble’s love of Parkwest during the last 40 years, in which she has experienced the unique opportunity to serve under two Chief Administrative Officers from the same family. Serving now with current hospital CAO, Neil Heatherly, Cobble also worked with Neil’s father, Wayne Heatherly, who was the first administrator of Parkwest and holds the longest tenure of any CAO in the hospital’s history.
When she isn’t serving at Parkwest, Cobble volunteers for community programs such as Habitat for Humanity. In addition to supporting Habitat efforts, she works to keep the environment green. As she encouraged staff to pursue recycling efforts, Parkwest was named the first green hospital in Knoxville. Among other interests, Cobble sings in her church choir. However, she confesses that she may break into song at work too. Whether she is singing, working or volunteering, Em Cobble seems to wear all of her hats well.