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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Sitting in a registration office, St. Joseph Hospital's new CEO David Ross, right, watches the process as Betsy Davis checks in patient Tom Lampognana of Hollis, Tuesday, July 13, 2010.




  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    In this 2010 file photo, St. Joseph Hospital's then-new CEO David Ross, center, talks with Radiology Department employees Brooke Thibodeau and Ariel Ovalles on July 13, 2010.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Standing in the Radiology Department, St. Joseph Hospital's new CEO David Ross talks with employees Brooke Thibodeau and Ariel Ovalles Tuesday, July 13, 2010.




  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Standing near the MRI scanner, St. Joseph Hospital's new CEO David Ross, center, talks with Radiology Department employees Brooke Thibodeau and Ariel Ovalles Tuesday, July 13, 2010.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Standing near the MRI scanner, St. Joseph Hospital's new CEO David Ross, center, talks with Radiology Department employees Brooke Thibodeau and Ariel Ovalles Tuesday, July 13, 2010.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Standing near the MRI scanner, St. Joseph Hospital's new CEO David Ross, center, talks with Radiology Department employees Brooke Thibodeau and Ariel Ovalles Tuesday, July 13, 2010.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Sitting in a registration office, St. Joseph Hospital's new CEO David Ross, right, watches the process as Betsy Davis checks in patient Tom Lampognana of Hollis, Tuesday, July 13, 2010.




Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New CEO at St. Joseph Hospital watching, learning

NASHUA – If 29 years in the Midwest mellowed David Ross, it’s hard to imagine him as a teenager in Milton, Mass., or as a 20-something working at a Boston hospital.

Everything Ross does is fast, from his speech to his metabolism.

“The Midwest began to slow me down,” Ross said, cracking a smile in his new second-floor office in the administrative wing of St. Joseph Hospital. “I’m very fast-paced, energetic.”

Ross, 51, took the helm as St. Joseph’s new CEO and president on May 10, replacing Peter Davis, who held the top spot at the Nashua Catholic hospital for a quarter century before announcing plans to retire last summer.

So far, Ross has spent most of his time shadowing employees throughout the hospital. One thing he vows not to do quickly is make big changes.

“I really didn’t want to rush into decisions that were premature,” Ross said. “It’s presumptive. It’s elitist.”

“Peter’s shoes are big shoes to fill. He was very well-respected and he built a great hospital.”

A Massachusetts native, Ross’s last job was president of similarly sized Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital in St. Peters, Mo. He resigned from that job, effective Nov. 30, after six years. No reason was released at the time. According to Ross, the county’s hospital system, BJC HealthCare, consolidated the president’s position at two of its hospitals.

Prior to Barnes-Jewish, Ross held CEO and executive management positions at a variety of hospitals in Missouri and Iowa.

Ross has fond childhood memories of New Hampshire. His father has a cabin on Deering Reservoir, and Ross was there when he watched the first landing on the moon in 1969.

This summer, his first in nearly three decades living on the East Coast, Ross is spending some weekends at the cabin, he said.

Other weekends, he travels back to Missouri, where his wife, Moira, will remain until the couple’s two youngest children finish high school. Kathryn, 17, is about to begin her senior year and Jack, 15, will be a sophomore. The couple’s older son, Brendan, 19, just finished his freshman year at Yale University.

Ross, who was raised a Protestant but now attends Catholic church with his family, still has a hint of a Boston accent. At times, he speaks quickly and off-the-cuff, infusing a joke here and a bit of sarcasm there.

Other times, Ross’s demeanor is more thoughtful. When asked what, if anything, a community hospital can do to address rising health care costs, he chose his words carefully. To start, there should be a greater focus on preventative care and more collaboration between health care providers and insurers, he said.

“Health care, in general, is way too fragmented,” he said. “The U.S. is much more expensive than other countries with poorer results.”

Ross has a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis. He chose Washington University after a stint as unit secretary at New England Deaconess in Boston, which later merged with Beth Israel Hospital to form Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, because it was one of the few colleges in the country that offered a combined master’s degree in health administration and law, he said.

After graduation, Ross had a brief career as a lawyer in Chicago, but discovered the profession was not for him.

“I never once left saying, ‘I feel really good about what I did today,’ ” he said.

By age 29, Ross was running 42-bed Ellsworth Municipal Hospital in Iowa Falls, Iowa. A few years later, he went to a larger hospital in northern Iowa. The people there were friendly, Ross said, but the winters were bitterly cold – much worse than the Northeast.

“Psychologically, winter was a six-month sport,” he said.

Ross wasn’t familiar with Nashua and is slowly getting acquainted with the area by driving around, he said.

Ross has settled into a rented condo on Broad Street and joined Nashua Country Club to play golf. Once captain of his high school golf team, Ross says his handicap is a 16 these days.

“I’m hitting some unbelievably bad shots,” he said.

Ross also enjoys gardening and cooking – useful hobbies for someone who needs to be eating all the time.

“I have an unbelievably fast metabolism,” he said. “If I don’t eat, I blow away.”

Since arriving back in New England, Ross has visited Boston for a Red Sox game with his dad, and stopped in Lowell to meet with a group of high school friends he hadn’t seen in decades.

Back at work, Ross is spending time roaming the halls of St. Joseph to get to know the employees and take in their ideas. Last week, he spent Tuesday morning shadowing the employees at the information desk and the emergency department registration desk.

“I want people to be comfortable talking to me,” Ross said. “I want us to have a culture that is very welcoming; taking suggestions from everyone.”

Ross said he would like to launch a series of community forums to get feedback from residents of Greater Nashua about St. Joseph and what it could do better.

He also hopes to collaborate with Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Nashua, he said, to find ways to provide better care for the region as a whole.

Ashley Smith can be reached at 594-6446 or asmith@nashuatelegraph.com.