Leadership in Non-Profit Medicine with Dr. Craig Hobar

November 16, 2023

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Craig Hobar, MD, Founder & Medical Director of LEAP Global Missions. Dr. Hobar discusses building and maintaining a non-profit committed to delivering specialized surgical services to underserved populations worldwide. Join us to explore Dr. Hobar’s leadership journey, shaped by faith, passion, and sacrifice, and to gain an understanding of the evolving landscape of the non-profit industry.

Listen to the full episode using the player below, or by visiting one of the links below. Below is the episode’s transcript which has been edited for readability. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, email us at info@byrdadatto.com.


Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto, legal issues simplified through real client stories and real world experiences, creating simplicity in 3, 2, 1.

Brad: Welcome back to the Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto, with my co-host Michael Byrd.

Michael: As a business and health care law firm, we represent clients in multiple business sectors, especially health care. This season we are finding common ground for our audience regardless of your background, our theme is Leadership, where each episode we will talk about leadership from a different perspective.

Brad: And Michael, I’m excited about our guest today, longtime friend and client who’s actually to be in studio today with us talking about leadership.

Michael: Yes, Brad, yes. Before we get started, I noted that you recently went to Colorado on a “work trip”. Is that right?

Brad: Michael, first let me respond according to this work trip [00:01:00] statement – to our IRS audience members who are listening, this was work-related. I am an attorney, I was there with other attorneys. We had a marketing – I mean, a wealth management person, insurance broker who was there. We learned a lot about each other’s businesses, and there’s lots of discussions on best practices.

Michael: Allegedly! I thought you were fly fishing,

Brad: You can fly fish and talk about business at the same time, Michael,

Michael: I’m sure there was much time dedicated discussing business, Brad, and if I remember right, part of this business discussion, you were also mountain biking.

Brad: Yes. That actually was probably kind of the most amazing part. We started on top of a mountain and yes, we got driven up there by a truck, and then we basically just raced to the bottom of the path. And I’ll say this, the 13 year old boy and me was having the best day of his life because we were speeding down this mountain. And at some point, the 50 year old man in me said, slow down.

Michael: Was your bike motorized? Be honest.

Brad: If gravity counts, then yes.

Michael: [00:02:00] Oh, okay. Yeah, you are going downhill. Well, I recently read a mountain biking article, Brad. It was published last year, and it’s slightly more impressive than what you just described.

Brad: So it’s more impressive than gliding down a mountain. Okay, go for it.

Michael: Yes. So the headline to the article described a person named Braden Bringhurst as a rare athlete.

Brad: All right.

Michael: He’s a former pole vaulter who could blend his explosive power with precision and control – so the article said.

Brad: Okay, well that sounds more like a car commercial than about a pole vaulter.

Michael: No, Brad, Braden is not a car. Braden is a mountain biker who rode a trail in Moab, Utah called the Whole Enchilada.

Brad: I mean, I just finished lunch. I actually had Tex-Mex. Is that supposed to make me hungry for it or impress me? I’m feeling a little both right now.

Michael: Well, the Whole Enchilada begins at the top of a 10,000 foot mountain called the Lasal Mountains. [00:03:00] It plunges 8,000 feet over 27, and they used the word, they used quotes, rowdy miles, 27 rowdy miles into the Red Rock canyons near the Colorado River.

Brad: Starting to feel like this is a little more dangerous, but the 13 year old boy me is actually wants to learn more.

Michael: Well, here’s a quote from the article about the trail. Of course, they seem to be using their journalistic creativity with the Whole Enchilada. It’s a feast with every Moab flavor, sculpted slick rock, cliff edge, single track and thundering descents that threaten to rattle the feelings out of your teeth. Is this similar to the trail you rode?

Brad: Yeah, first off, I’m not so sure what they just said. I got some of that, but yeah, not similar at all.

Michael: Well, apparently the pinnacle of the Whole Enchilada is a gauntlet called the Notch. The notch has hairpin turns and [00:04:00] precipitous ledges. A legendary rider describe the notch as a way down a cliff on a mountain bike.

Brad: Okay. Well, have others been able to successfully ride the Whole Enchilada?

Michael: Most do not make it or they might ride part of it, but not the whole thing. But there have been riders that have completed it.

Brad: Okay. So why is this article written about Brandon? Did he like, was the fastest guy ever down the mountain?

Michael: It’s Braden.

Brad: Braden, that’s right.

Michael: But no, Brad, he did the whole thing uphill.

Brad: Okay, that just sounds insane.

Michael: He climbed it.

Brad: Yeah.

Michael: On a mountain bike.

Brad: No fun factor in that at all.

Michael: Just,

Brad: I just lost it.

Michael: Apparently he spent over a year preparing for it. The details on his training was breathtaking. He would spend thousands of repetitions on one particular small technical part of this [00:05:00] otherwise 27 mile trail. Just imagine this description of going down the Notch that was like riding a bike down a cliff, but you’re doing that upwards.

Brad: Yeah.

Michael: And he would practice for hours doing, you know, like a three-foot little maneuver to get up and not, of course, fall down the mountain.

Brad: Yeah, that’s probably bad.

Michael: It was crazy. The climb took 13 hours and was harrowing to say the least.

Brad: That’s actually a pretty good story. Better than me gliding down a mountain with on a bike. I can’t figure out though, we have our guest sitting here in studio, what does it have to do with him today?

Michael: Well, I don’t know. We’ll find out. He has some great stories, but I don’t know if he’s ridden up the Whole Enchilada, but we have a, a longtime friend joining us today to talk about leadership. We have Dr. Craig Hobar joining. Craig is a plastic surgeon who spent the bulk of his career with an adult practice [00:06:00] and a pediatric craniofacial practice. Craig is the founder of a nonprofit called LEAP Global Missions. As many of our audience knows, our firm has been connected to LEAP for over 20 years. I’ve been on the board during this time with Craig, and it’s an amazing organization that will explore a little bit today. Craig also is a black belt and judo and so I’m sure that has influenced his leadership over the years. And Craig has personally played a tremendous role in your and my career, Brad and has helped really shape us. He was one of my first clients when I was a baby lawyer out of law school. Craig, welcome.

Craig: Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Brad.

Brad: Yeah. We’re excited to have you here. And I guess we’ll start off with a really tough question. Have you ever mountain biked the Whole Enchilada

Craig: [00:07:00] Absolutely not. And not going to try.

Michael: Same. I don’t even the draw to mountain biking up the hill. I’m not sure about that. Well, let’s jump in. And I think we have to start by talking about LEAP. It’s been such an important part of your story and important part of our story as well, so I’d love just to have you start by telling us a little bit about LEAP Global Missions.

Craig: Yeah. LEAP’s an amazing story. I went on a surgical mission trip when I was still in training. I was a plastic surgery resident to the Dominican Republic with another team, and my wife Robin went with us. And we saw a tremendous need of the kids over there who were born with cleft lips and pallets and were ostracized, not able to go to school. And with straightforward surgery, we were able to change all that. I had a little bit of a heavy feeling because [00:08:00] I was still in training and wasn’t able to perform at a level that I would like to, so I made a commitment, I’m going to go back on one more mission trip to the Dominican Republic when I’m fully trained, and I’m going to operate on this kids at the highest level that I possibly can. And so, started talking about that in a bunch of nurses and colleagues at Children’s Medical Center wanted to go and started collecting supplies and we kept it at our house. And we took a team of about 20 people, a little bit more in 1991 and planned on going on a single mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Our hearts were smattered with love and smashed with love, and overwhelmed with the need that was going on there. So one mission trip became, no, we’re going to do this until there’s no more kids that need it. [00:09:00] So that’s how we grew from planning on going on a single mission trip to an organization. And it was all the great people that got up and stood up and said, we got to do this. And this is why I went into medicine. I want to help other people on a pure and deep basis, and God added everything else we need. We just stepped forward in faith and a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of for the right reasons.

Michael: That’s amazing. And every time I hear the story, it’s almost like I’m hearing it for the first time, and I’d love for you to share too. There’s a, there is a step of faith, as you mentioned, and a step in leadership that goes with doing something for the first time, like going on this mission trip. Talk about how you went from that and where all LEAP has gone to do some other areas of the country or the world where LEAP has gone to operate on kids. [00:10:00]

Craig: Yeah, and that’s the amazing next part of the story. Now we’re looking back at 32 years and this year we will surpass 10,000 gifted surgeries on mostly children in more than 24 countries in the world. And so, it really, again, credit God with providing everything we needed, but credit a lot of really, really great people stepping up to the plate and making this happen.

Michael: And then I know a part of LEAP’s story kind of changed again when there a disaster struck in Haiti. Talk a little bit about that, and then of course would like to hear, you know, I know most recently LEAP has been involved with Ukraine since it’s been at war.

Craig: In 2010 the earthquake in Haiti happened, and I heard about it. I was in surgery and I came home from surgery, and I walked into my house and [00:11:00] Robin my wife was sitting on the couch with tears rolling down her face and didn’t even recognize me as coming in the house. And I looked and she was watching the TV of the Haitian earthquake aftermath. And I sat down next to her and we both just said, you know, you need to be there. And so, with some amazing gymnastics by Robin and my office manager, they emptied out my schedule. And through connections that we had, through our nearly 20 years of mission work, I was able to get to Haiti on day four.

The president of the American Association for plastic surgery knew I was there somehow and called me and said, I have people, surgeons, plastic surgeons from all over the country calling me, they want to go to Haiti and help, but it’s really, nobody can get in there. [00:12:00] How do we do it? Can you guys help us? And that was, again, like Michael said, stepping forward in faith. How do you do that? I mean, that’s not something that we ever thought about or really know how to do, but we’ll do it. There’s a need here, and our heart has seen that need and so we’ll figure out how to do it. So miraculously, again, with a bunch of great, great people stepping up to the place, we recognized that there was going to be an ongoing need for complex reconstructive surgery for many, many months. And so, we were able to set up teams of six surgeons, nurses, everything that was able to go into Haiti, not take away from the system, bring everything that is needed and perform complex reconstructive surgeries.

You couldn’t get in there commercially by commercial airfare [00:13:00] for the first six weeks. We had people step up to the plate, heard about what we were trying to do, and offer us private planes to get there, so that’s what we did for six weeks. And every week a new team would come in hand off to hand off from the team leaving and keep going with these. We became known as, you have a reconstructive need, call LEAP. They’re at this hospital, this is who you get in contact with. And so, that’s how that took off. After six weeks, commercial airfare opened up, we, we called American. We made an arrangement with them to save us six seats every week. And we continued sending teams in there for six months as the acute reconstructive needs abated. We said we love this country, we love these people, they’re some of the most courageous people in the world, there’s a lot of orphans here who are outcasts from clef lips and pallets. We want to leverage the relationship [00:14:00] we have built in going to the next level. So we had identified the hospital that we were going to partner with, and they also had a heart for helping the children. And again, amazing things happened. Clayton and Ellen Kershaw heard about what we were trying to do. They helped us fund an operating room in a pediatric ward in this hospital, and then we began sending teams every six months on an elective basis to keep to take care of these clef lips and pallets.

Brad: It’s amazing. And I mean, every time I hear this story, and I’ve obviously heard it more than once, I started getting chill bumps again hearing you talk about it, Craig, so grateful for to hear that you share that. But now we’re going to try to take a big step back and our focus for this season is really focusing on leadership itself. And would love to really for you to go back to the beginning too with us, and talk about what was your first leadership position.

Craig: You know, [00:15:00] that’s a great question, and probably when I was a senior resident and responsible for junior residents and medical students, both general surgery and plastic surgery, it was great. And it was a great time to be developed as a leader because I had great teachers and mentors, and I was standing on the shoulder of giants, not only in them, but in the excellent of the program and the culture that they had developed. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how important leadership and family is. But my first real role in leadership after I started in practice was in LEAP. And again, it happened organically. If anybody would’ve told me all the things that I would be responsible and facing, I would’ve said, no way, you definitely have the wrong guy here in many ways I was the wrong guy. But it happened slowly [00:16:00] enough and organically enough and fully with God’s help and provision that things happen the way that we’ve described.

Michael: Did you have anyone that kind of helped show you the way or teach you on being a leader or mentor you?

Craig: Yeah, Michael, your dad, Dr. Steve Byrd was a great, great mentor to me and to many, many others. And for me, he opened my eyes to deeper thinking and deeper opportunities. And he not only did that, but he walked alongside me while I was trying to figure them out and grow into them, so he’s definitely one of my greatest, greatest mentors.

Brad: Normally at this point, I’d make fun of Michael, but I can’t make fun of you talking about Steve because who doesn’t love Steve Byrd? Well, I actually have ranked Steve Byrd as my favorite bird, by the way, on a podcast.

Michael: He says that whenever he can.

Brad: Yes, this is true. Well, and I [00:17:00] love that, and it’s great to having those mentors, but unfortunately, sometimes there’s an experience that you may have that did not go well. So, do you have like, experience where you’re like, this was the worst leadership experience I’ve been a part of?

Craig: Yeah, and I fought myself for this. We, for the very right reasons, decided that we were going to transition from Dallas to Austin because we have four grandkids down there and Robin wanted to be a part of their growing up. So as in making that transition, I saw, okay, it’s time to start thinking about winding down my practice. We need to make sure that LEAP has a future that is even brighter beyond me. And so, I probably backed away from that too soon and in the wrong way. And we found out that some things were maybe taken for granted, and we were riding a little bit on our coattails and our past reputation. And so, when I discovered [00:18:00] that, I was fully retired from my practice, but I came out of retirement as a volunteer and called my office manager, Donna Landry, who had been my office manager for 31 years, who had seen, she hadn’t been actively involved in LEAP, but she really had, she had seen every step of the way and knew everything about LEAP and its development. So she came back and we thoroughly went through the organization and reorganized, and now we’ve increased our staff. We have a great executive director joining us in January. We’re going to go through a thorough strategic planning process, and hopefully this time I’ll help do it.

Brad: Well, it sounds like it wasn’t terrible experience. It sounds like you learned a lot from that, that moment in time, which is a great reflection on your own leadership.

Craig: Yes. Leadership is a very humbling thing. You have to sacrifice a lot and you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot. Leadership by intellectualism [00:19:00] doesn’t get followed when things get really, really tough. If people see that you have a passion for what you’re doing, you’re totally bought into it and you’re willing to do whatever it takes, then they’re going to catch that same type of good disease.

Brad: A great point.

Michael: And that connects directly to my next question, and you may have just answered it, but I’d be curious how, you know, you take all these experiences, the organic development of your leadership through LEAP, the mentorship that you experience, your experiences in school; how would you describe your leadership style?

Craig: I think you have to sacrifice a lot. And I think you have to lead by example, and I think you have to clearly communicate. I think you have to surround yourself with the very best people and clearly communicate to them. [00:20:00] And again, their vision will become greater than any single vision and become the vision and the culture and the leadership of the future. And I think that’s happened I many times in LEAP I think it’s happening to a big level right now.

Brad: That’s interesting. And you’re right, I mean, that resonates with me too, is that you have to really be part of it. And the passion statement, Michael and I have talked about that many times about if you have the passion and you can bring people along that have that same passion, you all can grow together because you’re rowing together with that same cultural field. And I think that leads us to really where our next question was going to go anyway, which is like, you have this leadership in other areas, but now you have medical missionary field. This is very unique area. And what are some of the challenges that Leap has faced that, those out there who are thinking about going into either this space or other nonprofits, what are some of the things that you can share with [00:21:00] them that from a leadership perspective, help them navigate to tough situations?

Craig: The world has changed a lot and international mission work particularly surgical mission work has changed a lot. And sometimes it changes exponentially, like after 911 and where a lot of things go into place. There were so many good things that came out of that Haiti earthquake relief, but there were some not so good things. So a lot of good rules were enforced, and I tell people we were blessed to start when we did because we were able to be strong when these changes came and we were able to navigate them. So, we’ve never said we’re going here and taking care of these people. We’ve always been asked, we always take the time to go over there and make sure there really is a need, make sure that we have the right kind of partnerships so that when we’re finished, [00:22:00] we’re helping them to develop programs of their own and to we want to walk alongside them eventually. Many of the places we go, we’re the first team there, so we start off by them. But we want to help grow our partners and facilitate them long term. So anybody that wants to go into this, go with a group and there’s many, many good groups out there that have a lot of experience and are doing it the right way, and learn from them. And I promise your life will be blessed and you’ll grow as a person in ways you never dreamed of.

Brad: And I think for our audience members that are thinking about that, a lot of times people say, “Well, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nurse,” but there’s needs elsewhere for people who aren’t in the medical field even, correct?

Craig: Absolutely. There are so many great non-medical nonprofit organizations out there that are helping [00:23:00] in many, many ways and in our country too. One of the things that somebody told me, which I think is very true, is the needs in our country are as great as anywhere in the world, so you don’t have to go overseas to serve, you can serve here and you can do both. A lot of the things that are put in front of us as roadblocks really aren’t like, yeah, I’ll do that when I am set where I want to be in my professional career and my family, or I’ll do that, you know, when the time is right or I can’t really make a difference; there’s too many problems in the world. If everybody stepped forward, they would grow personally, they would become more fulfilled personally, they would help make the world a better place in whatever small part God is giving them to do that.

Michael: That’s amazing. As we’re getting near our end, one of the things I wanted to circle back on that connects directly [00:24:00] to this conversation is LEAP’s recent involvement in Ukraine. Talk to us about, you know, how even with the lessons learned in Haiti, how was LEAP able to get involved and go and serve and talk a little bit about what LEAP’s doing there?

Craig: Yeah, that’s a great question, and it was never on our radar. It was never on my radar. A great surgeon, facial plastic surgeon here in the Dallas Plano area, Steve Orton, had been with us to Haiti and served with us and felt like we were a really great organization, and knew what we had done to help the earthquake relief in Haiti. He went to Ukraine and he came back and he called me up and I said, “Steve, I’m retired. I’m not really interested in going to a country in an active war.” And he didn’t [00:25:00] push me, but he just kept telling me, “Well, I really think there’s a need there. I think the Lord’s calling us there. So I drove up to Dallas and had coffee with him and met with a Dallas resident who was in the Peace Corps in Ukraine and they convinced me. I did not want to, and would not ask LEAP as an organization to go there, but I felt that I could go there and accept those risks. It really is true. There are so many needs there and we were in Aviv, which is away from the act of war. I felt safe. The sirens went off many times, but the need there is ongoing. We’ve been back three times. Other people from LEAP have stepped up to the plate independently and said, I want to go and be a part of that team. We are doing it a little bit differently, and we are figuring out exactly what they need. [00:26:00] We’re taking a higher proportion of surgeons and really working to develop long-term relationships with them. Steve is taking another big group next week. I’ll be going back in March, so just please pray that we can help in, in the best way possible for that.

Michael: It’s amazing. Well, believe it or not, our time already just blew by. We’re so grateful, Craig, for you to join us and share your heart and your passion were came screaming through the microphone. It was it was really amazing to hear. What we’ll do next is we’ll go into commercial and on the other side we can have a little bit of a legal wrap up, but thank you so much for joining us.

Craig: Thank you both very much.

Access+: Many business owners use legal counsel as a last resort rather than as a proactive tool that can further their success. Why? For most it’s the fear of unknown legal costs. ByrdAdatto’s Access+ program makes it possible [00:27:00] for you to get the ongoing legal assistance you need for one predictable monthly fee that gives you unlimited phone and email access to the legal team so you can receive feedback on legal concerns as they arise. Access+, a smarter, simpler way to access legal services. Find out more, visit byrdadatto.com today.

Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto. Still here with my co-host, Michael Byrd. Now Michael, this season, our theme is leadership, and we had an amazing leader in studio, audience member. It was I don’t know about you guys, audience members, but I did get goosebumps as he kept telling a story that I’ve heard more than one time in my life. And it was great to really hear Craig really share his passion for the LEAP foundation, but more important, hearing his leadership just coming out of him, even if it sounds like he was a reluctant leader. But for audience who is interested in going in that route of how do I get going in the nonprofit world, understand, just like a [00:28:00] for-profit, there are a lot of steps you have to go into to do it correctly. I mean, you’re still forming an entity with the state, you’re still having to get an a employer identification number, and there’s additional applications you’re going to need to do to, so if you want to be a tax exempt. But I think the part, even on those simplest piece, Michael, that a lot of people don’t think about is you need to have good governance too as to how you plan to act as a board and how do you make decisions and how do those board members get on there.

Michael: Yeah, I guess to your point, as a first step, understanding that this, a nonprofit is a business organization that it naturally has governance, it has requirements for you to be legitimate. What’s a little tricky is that when you’re a startup kind of founder-based entity, you’re usually dealing kind of ground up friends and family that are donors, and you can somewhat get away [00:29:00] with being a little less organized. As you grow, you’re now accountable to a growing donor base, and to the IRS, and to the state where you’re formed. And so there are hats that people wear. There’s a board of directors that is in charge of running that nonprofit. There’s no owners to a nonprofit, but the board has a fiduciary responsibility to be good stewards of the money that’s being donated to use the funds in a way that follows IRS rules. And so for our nonprofits out there, there is some leadership development that has to happen to know the steps need to be taken from a governance perspective as well. It goes from riding the motorized bicycle downhill to the Whole Enchilada uphill, like our story today very quickly as a nonprofit grows. [00:30:00]

Brad: That’s true. Well, first off, audience members, again, we’re super thankful that Dr. Craig Hobart could share his insight and passion with us today. We will have in the show notes information about LEAP Foundation if you want to learn about it. But as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend, we hope that you enjoy your time with your friends and family and have some time to be thankful to be with them. But next Wednesday we’ll be back again when we bring on Nicole Chiaramonte [30:28], which will be her second time live with us, and she’ll be joining with us to continue to learn about leadership. Thanks again for joining us today. And remember, if you like this episode, please subscribe, make sure to give us a five-star rating and share with your friends.

Michael: You can also sign up for the ByrdAdatto newsletter by going to our website at byrdadatto.com.

Outro: ByrdAdatto is providing this podcast as a public service. This podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an [00:31:00] attorney-client relationship. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ByrdAdatto. The views expressed by guests are their own, and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Please consult with an attorney on your legal issues.

ByrdAdatto founding partner Michael Byrd

Michael S. Byrd

As the son of a doctor and entrepreneur, ByrdAdatto attorney Michael S. Byrd has a personal connection to both business and medicine.

More Great Content