Another View: A bittersweet farewell from Elliot CEO Doug Dean
For the past 16 years I have had the privilege to work as the President and CEO of Elliot Health System, one of the largest health care delivery systems in New Hampshire. I’m compelled to write this message as a thank you to the more than 4,000 people with whom I have enjoyed working every day and to a community that has provided me and my family with an environment that will be our lifelong home.
I have routinely observed some extraordinary achievements over my tenure at Elliot and have witnessed the capabilities of superbly trained individuals to restore life for residents in our community suffering, vulnerable and justifiably trusting the capacity of our people to respond.
At times, I attempt to capture the reach of Elliot in numbers, sharing the fact that more than 120,000 people presented last year to our Emergency Room and urgent care centers, or that we admitted 13,000 people last year to Elliot Hospital, or that New Hampshire’s Hospital for Children at Elliot serves more children than most academic medical centers in New England.
I could share with you that we are the largest employer in Manchester, with more than 500 physicians, 4,000 employees and an army of more than 500 caring volunteers. None of these numbers captures the essence of greatness of Elliot, which is represented in the level of compassion, mutual respect within our health care team and the overall attitude of a community of people caring for their neighbors. I know Mary Elliot would be very proud that the pure motivations she held in gifting the resources in 1880 to initiate Elliot are alive and well today
People frequently ask me, “Who owns Elliot?” Elliot is actually a tax-exempt entity which by law exists strictly for the purpose of advancing the health of our community. All money generated by Elliot is required by law to be directed toward the mission, and we are very fortunate to maintain the oversight of Elliot by a 22-member board of directors sourced from the five major Protestant congregations of the Protestant faith, six physicians from the active medical staff, the president of the Women’s Associates and the balance from the community at large.
This board composition was required in the 1880 will of Mary Elliot and survives to this day. It is this group to which I hold much of my personal gratitude and respect. Over the years, I have witnessed their personal sacrifices of time and their extreme stress to deal with decisions of grave consequence. I will never forget the deliberations and courage exercised by our board to moving forward with building The Elliot at River’s Edge in the teeth of the recession, or the courageous and intractable dedication to mental health, trauma and the children’s hospital despite the financial pressure to curtail these vital programs. I hold this group in such high esteem for their brave governance driven by the singular motivation of serving others.
I also must mention the community of 26 acute care hospitals whose employees toil everyday to meet the growing and complex needs of our patients with some of the most thoughtful and capable administrative groups. Each one of our hospitals deals with an environment in which the pace of change renders expensive imaging equipment obsolete more quickly than ever before, an atmosphere in which infection control and disease mutation cause consistent escalation in treatment protocols, and the expense of drugs and new therapies create burdensome cost drains. I have been proud to be part of our health care community and to call many of these health care leaders my friend.
As a final note, I must say that the excitement my wife Genie and I hold for retirement is tempered when we think about saying goodbye to a 35-year career which was highlighted by our relationships at Elliot. I would encourage every community to periodically pause and think about the benefit their hospital represents and to consider the actions which can be taken to fortify their future. I can assure that Manchester is fortunate to have The Elliot, and I will never be able to adequately express my appreciation for the impact Elliot has had on me to become a better more caring person by following the example set for me by my colleagues there.
Doug Dean is retiring as president and CEO of Elliot Health System.