Baptist CEO visits local medical center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Baptist Health System has named a Catholic and its first woman as its chief executive officer.

According to BHS, Mary Elizabeth O’Brien was selected as president and CEO following a five-month search that drew some 150 applicants from across the country.

O’Brien, 56, is a 30-year healthcare industry veterans who began her career as a nurse and whose latest accomplishments include growing a $1.5 billion healthcare system in California. She will begin work on Monday, Jan. 5.

The selection of O’Brien was announced last week, and she was introduced to the staff of Baptist Shelby Medical Center in Alabaster during a brief visit Thursday morning.

&uot;Beth O’Brien has a proven track record at leading significant and successful faith-based hospital systems while having a deep, abiding faith of her own,&uot; said Dr. Michael Drummond, chairman of the BHS Board of Trustees.

&uot;She is the perfect combination for BHS: she appreciates our historic mission and can help lead the organization in fulfilling it. She has strategic vision and is a true leader. We are delighted to have her on board.&uot;

According to BHS, the trustee’s search committee, led by the Rev. Gary Furr, closely evaluated 11 candidates and interviewed seven with the assistance of the Chicago-based search firm of Spencer Stuart. O’Brien was the committee’s unanimous choice.

&uot;Our charge was to hire the best person in the country to work for the BHS Board and to lead our system forward,&uot; Furr said. &uot;That’s what we found in Beth O’Brien. She has a reputation of unflinching integrity and a faith that comes through in how she treats people and institutions. We could not have found a better steward of our vision.&uot;

According to BHS, the CEO post was vacated last July after trustees voted not to sell BHS to a hospital company and, instead, rededicated the system to its 82-year mission of service to the community.

It was that renewed pledge that drew O’Brien to pursue the opportunity to lead BHS, she said.

&uot;I am struck by the system’s commitment to ministry, its clear sense of mission and backbone of values. To lead BHS’ rededication effort is a great honor,&uot; she said.

In an address to staff members at Shelby Baptist, O’Brien said she has spent her career in &uot;Faith Based Health Care&uot; and said it &uot;allows us to bring our whole person to the job.&uot;

Drummond noted that O’Brien’s mother was a nurse and her daughter is in nursing school.

O’Brien noted a &uot;deep sense of mission&uot; and presented a list of values, the first of which she said is &uot;compassion.&uot;

O’Brien said that on Jan. 5, her first day on the job, she wants to start at the bedside … creating an environment of compassion at the system.

She said her second value is &uot;resourcefulness&uot; … how much can be done in common, what can be standardized as well as, getting a hold of &uot;what makes Shelby Shelby.&uot;

She next listed &uot;advocacy&uot; and &uot;excellence&uot; as important values and said an important ideal in the hospital should be &uot;Are we improving?&uot;

But O’Brien said it is &uot;integrity&uot; is which underpins everything.

She said that when she begins on Jan. 5, her first four hours will be with the nursing unit, the operating room and others as well as meeting with medical staff.

&uot;We are building on strength. I see tremendous opportunity,&uot; she said.

Drummond said that in 18 months, things will be even better.

&uot;We see this as one of the most prosperous markets we are in. Baptist Health System is dedicated to Shelby Baptist,&uot; he said.

Drummond said Shelby Baptist needs an open heart unit and said, &uot;We are going to do the best we can to get that here.&uot;

O’Brien’s experience includes serving as president and CEO of Catholic Healthcare West’s Southern California Division from 1997 to 2002.

During her tenure, the division expanded from five hospitals to 14. It also went from a negative operating margin of $6.5 million to a positive operating income of $17.3 million.

O’Brien replaces Dennis Hall who was dismissed in July