Dr. Robert E. Simpson, Jr., President

Background: As Co-Founder and President of The Difference Leadership Group, Dr. Simpson works to strengthen the critical role that leaders play in supporting organizational resilience and transformation.

Executive Leadership: Dr. Simpson is a seasoned healthcare professional, executive and consultant who has served in a variety of senior executive leadership positions throughout his career. From 2006-2016 he served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Brattleboro Retreat, a psychiatric hospital founded in 1834 and a member of the original Ivy League hospitals. At the Retreat he led a significant turnaround that saw the organization become ranked by Modern Healthcare magazine as number 12 on its 2015 list of the 15 largest behavioral health providers in the United States.  In 2013 he launched a new partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont known as Vermont Collaborative Care, LLC. This groundbreaking approach to care management integrates the management of mental health and substance abuse services with those of traditional medical care and supports improvements in the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of providing care by treating the “whole person” across all conditions setting the stage for Health Care Reform initiatives.

Prior to joining the Retreat, Dr. Simpson served as CEO of Arbour Hospital, a member of  Universal Health Services, Inc., in Boston; Chief Operating Officer of Behavioral Healthcare and Sr. VP of Government Relations at the Sisters of Providence Health System; and VP of Behavioral Health and Cancer Services at Baystate Health System in Springfield, Massachusetts where he co-led the system wide Medical Management quality program with a physician partner, Evan Benjamin, MD,  presently Chief Medical Officer at Ariadne Labs.

Entrepreneurial Skills: As one of the founders of CompHealth, Inc, a leader in healthcare recruitment, he understands the challenges of entrepreneurial positioning, investment and IPO decisions. He is extremely effective in assisting new and seasoned leaders to accelerate their onboarding experience, setting early expectations for developing a leadership presence through effective communication and targeted skill acquisition. He has served as a Senior VP Government Relations and in CEO positions that have given him strong experience with Regulatory matters related to CMS, Joint Commission and Federal, State and local legal requirements that require a focus on corporate ethics, compliance programs, product and patient safety.

Clinical Skills: As a doctoral level clinician with direct patient care experience and an additional public health degree, he has worked extensively with Physician leaders assisting in clarifying medical management opportunities, a strong quality focus and addressing physician burnout that enhances strategies to create clinician and leader resilience through purpose focused teamwork. Having led complex healthcare organizations, he has worked extensively with executive leaders and physicians as a partner, supervisor and executive sponsor in transforming care in small community hospitals, large tertiary care hospitals and across the community/hospital continuum of care. He brings an intuitive understanding also of the Board/CEO interactions on strategy implementation.

Leadership and Coaching Reputation: He is seen as a quick witted, outcomes focused, pragmatic and supportive transformational leader who can quickly assess and develop a focused plan for leadership success that assures accountability. As a seasoned executive leader and clinician, he brings emotional intelligence and administrative acumen to his work and intuitively and by training understands the interplay of personal and professional leadership dynamics. While coaching is not psychotherapy, a sound understanding of each is valuable in crafting an effective, reliable and personally meaningful coaching plan.

Board Positions: Additionally, Dr. Simpson has served in leadership roles on Boards of Directors:

  • Vermont Business Roundtable – Vice Chair (2012-15, Board Secretary (2011)
  • Vermont Association of Hospitals & Health Systems Inc. – Vice-President of the Board, Secretary-Treasurer of the Board, Chair of the Mental Health Committee, Chair Bylaws Committee (2006-2015) of the
  • Zen Peacemakers International, Inc. – Co-Chair Board of Trustees, Chair Finance Committee (2006-2009)

Leadership Awards: Dr. Simpson has received numerous citations for leadership service:

  •  2005 & 2006 Official Citations from the Massachusetts State House and Senate for his “Dedication to the Profession of Mental Health & Endless Assistance to the People of Western Massachusetts.”
  • 2011,  named as an American Hospital Association Grassroots Champion which “Singles out one hospital leader from each state who, over the previous year, effectively delivered the hospital message to elected officials; helped broaden the base of community support for hospitals; and advocated tirelessly on behalf of patients, hospitals and the community served.”
  • 2012 he received the Founder’s Award from the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, “Given to a member of the community who enhances the economic vitality of the region.”
  • 2014 Behavioral Healthcare Champion by Behavioral Healthcare Magazine, chosen for his “unique brand of dedication, courage, inspiration and excellence as a behavioral healthcare leader.”
  • 2015 he received the Southern Vermont Leadership Award for Excellence in Economic Development “Given in Recognition of sustained and effective efforts to mobilize leadership in the development of programs and projects, planning and designing of new and creative economic development activities, and deep commitment as a leader and advocate for economic development in southern Vermont.”
  • 2019 National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Henry A. Butova Award  – as former Co-Captain Amherst College Football

Advocacy: Known as a passionate advocate for individuals suffering from psychiatric and addictive illness, Dr. Simpson could be heard for nearly a decade on the weekly radio show, “Keep Talking”, on WPTL 107.7-The Pulse covering topics ranging from the neurobiology of addiction and depression to the prevention and treatment of suicide.

Publications: His publications include articles and Op-Ed’s have spoken to important and critical issues in the public arena related to healthcare reform, gun violence and the need for specialized programs for uniform personal experiencing post-traumatic stress.

“Integrated Primary Care, the Future of Medical & Mental Health Collaboration” 1998.  W. W. Norton & Company.

Medical Patent Owner: # 8,500,719 B1: Catheter Support Medical Device. As a patent owner who has developed a medical device that addresses the unique interface of pain management and infection, he has experience in the process of taking an innovative idea through field trials to FDA approval and the legal processes of licensing.


  • Choate Rosemary Hall, Harvard Trophy
  • Amherst College, BA, Woodward Scholarship
  • Simmons College, MSW, Weisenfeld Scholarship
  • Harvard School of Public Health, MPH
  • U of Utah, DSW, Phi Kappa Phi., Marriner S. Eccles Scholar

Select Professional Coaching, Consultations & Presentations:

  • “Change Management for Chief Medical Officers”, Centura Health System, 2016
  • “Building a Transformational Leadership Culture,” Helmerich & Payne, Tulsa, OK, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
  • “Change & Transition Management for the Operations Team” Central Maine Health System 2018

Dr. Simpson works on the following projects as a Consultant for The Leadership Development Group:  logo_Dark

  • “Physician Executive Coaching the Chief Physician Quality Officer, Chairs & Vice Chairs Departments of Anesthesiology & Urology, Univ. of Massachusetts Health System 2019-ongoing.”
  • “Executive On-boarding-Coaching Physician President, Central Maine Health System 2018”
  • “Leadership Coaching -Takeda & GSK Pharmaceuticals 2019-2020”
  • “Creating a Team Charter that Enables a Team of Teams Approach to Break Down Organizational Silos” GlaxkoSmithKline, 2020
  • “Building High Performing Teams, Creating Team Charters for Transformational Success, Maximizing Emotional Intelligence in Leadership” UMass Medical Urology & Anesthesiology Executive Teams 2020″