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Derry hospital's goal is improving the daily experience

Sunday News Correspondent

February 14. 2014 11:44PM
CEO Chris Accashian took over the reins of Parkland Medical Center last summer. (HUNTER MCGEE/Union Leader Correspondent)

DERRY - As Parkland Medical Center's chief executive officer, Chris Accashian is focused on the patient-centered side of health care.

Accashian took over as CEO last summer, leaving a post as chief operating officer for a hospital in Richmond, Va. Instead of concentrating on strategic planning, as he did in his former job, he said he's now working to improve the daily experience for Parkland patients.

"I think every patient we encounter is scared and vulnerable, and we have the opportunity for a real positive impact on their life; and a memorable one," said Accashian in a recent interview. "I really enjoy being back in the hospital and getting to work with physicians and staff, with the same goal of taking care of the patient and serving the community."

In his easygoing style, Accashian mentioned an incident last summer that both brought out the best in the hospital's staff and created an unforgettable moment for one patient.

Accashian had only been in his new job for a few weeks when a patient was admitted to the emergency room. The patient was supposed to be married that day, but it seemed the wedding would be postponed.

But then staff members intervened, quickly finding a priest, flowers and making arrangements to hold the impromptu ceremony in the hospital chapel. Even though the venues changed, the wedding proved a success, he said.

"Those are the stories that keep me motivated," Accashian said. "Hearing from patients and the effect our staff had on them, and the joy that our patients and our staff get from touching somebody in that positive way. That's what it's all about for me."

Major employer

The hospital Accashian is leading is one of the biggest employers in Derry, said Stacey Bruzzese, executive director of the Greater Derry-Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

"Their role is as a leader, as well as a good resource for our economy," Bruzzese said. "Locally, they provide great health care."

Parkland is also ready to give back to the community and has coordinated a number of fundraising efforts, Bruzzese said. The hospital has made a lot of generous donations to local nonprofits, she added.

One of the challenges the hospital faces is trying to overcome the perception among some area residents that better health care is available just an hour away in Boston. Parkland isn't alone in having to deal with this challenge, Bruzzese said.

"I think that's a challenge that a lot of Southern New Hampshire hospitals have," Bruzzese said. "The proximity to Boston gives people the option to leave town, and I think that because we have so many fantastic facilities throughout New England. It's a very competitive market place."

Accessable to public

Since Accashian started working for Parkland, he has been easy to reach and quick to return a call or email, said Bruzzese, who met Accashian during his first week of work.

"Ever since then, he has been very engaged, very accessible," Bruzzese said. "I have no problem calling over there or sending an email."

A native of Virginia, Accashian began taking steps toward a career in health care when he started working as a pharmacy tech in high school. He went on to volunteer at a hospital while in college and discovered he wanted to pursue a career in health care.

"I always say health care is a calling," Accashian said. "It's as tough a business as there might be out there, but I don't think there is anything that's more rewarding."

After receiving his bachelor's in psychology from the University of Virginia, he earned a master's degree in health administration from the University of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

After college, Accashian went to work for Hospital Corp. of America in its corporate office. HCA has about 165 hospitals nationwide, including Parkland.

Varied training

Accashian spent five years in Nashville, Tenn., working for the organization in such areas as strategic planning and capital development. During those years, he worked with HCA hospitals such as Parkland. He said he learned the New Hampshire hospital had received a number of accolades and earned an excellent reputation in the medical field.

He then moved back to Virginia, spending the past seven years in the state. He spent most of that time working as the chief operating officer for an area hospital.

After learning the CEO position had opened at Parkland, he said he wanted to apply for the job since he was already familiar with the hospital.

He accepted the job last year, relocating to New Hampshire with his wife Elizabeth and their two children, James and Lucy.

"This was an opportunity that became available that we certainly took advantage of because it seemed New Hampshire was a good place to raise a family," Accashian said. "It's a good spot, and we've been very pleased so far."

Continuing to grow

Looking to the future, the hospital is licensed for 86 beds and is adding an addition this spring. Plans call for Parkland to break ground in April on a 14-bed behavioral health facility, Accashian said.

The project will cost approximately $3 million.

As for the goals he would like to achieve at the hospital, Accashian said it starts with hiring the best employees possible, providing them with the tools to do their job and setting high expectations.

Wants area recognition

He would like to see Parkland promoted as a locally-based facility that has excellent care and is close to home for many people in the Greater Derry area. Residents can receive exceptional health care at Parkland without having to leave the state, he said.

"It's really about how do we deliver that care; what's the experience that patients have when they get here - that's what I think people remember."

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