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Friday, April 30, 2010

St. Joseph’s Davis more than caretaker

Telegraph Editorial

Peter Davis, the towering president and CEO of St. Joseph Hospital, found himself the center of attention Wednesday, receiving the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year award and, later, the subject of an appreciation ceremony put on by hospital colleagues.

Davis is retiring in July from the hospital he has led the last 25 years and will scale back the time he has given to the Greater Nashua community. It will be an active retirement, we are certain, given his love of golf and plans for spending time in Florida.

It will also be a time to contend with challenging health care issues of a most personal nature. He has lung cancer.

Has there been an industry in the last two-plus decades more changed than health care?

Consolidations. Competition. Crushing regulations. Dramatic cost increases. Amazing advancements. Wondrous technology. Shortened hospital stays. Radical insurance changes. And now health care reform.

It has been against this backdrop that Davis has pushed St. Joseph to improve and expand. He describes himself, humbly, as a “caretaker” of the hospital, which has grown to include facilities throughout the region. It is now more a system than an institution, and this is the result of more than just caring for a place and its people.

Davis and his counterpart, Tom Wilhelmsen at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, have been the only two CEOs of these two health care facilities in the last two decades. This continuity has led to collaboration between the two hospitals where once there was intense competition.

And this has provided the residents of Greater Nashua with quality care and options that strengthen the region and reinforce decisions to move and stay here.

Certainly, stewardship plays a significant role in guiding any such system, but Davis has done much more than that.

During his tenure, St. Joseph has built one of the largest acute care hospitals in the state, a primary and specialty care physician network, the state’s largest ambulance service and, in Milford, a stand-alone emergency room – the only one of its kind in New Hampshire.

The hospital created the Breast Care Center, built cardiovascular and oncology centers, and in 2006 opened a new ambulatory care building. The hospital brought in robotic surgery.

This has not gone unnoticed among Davis’ peers and colleagues. He is the past recipient of the Health Care Management Association Recognition Award, the New Hampshire Hospital Association Leslie Smith President’s Award and Founders Award and, locally, the prestigious Max Silber Award from the United Way of Greater Nashua.

Davis’ local affiliations are numerous, including significant work as part of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and the United Way.

Employees told Telegraph reporter Dean Shalhoup on Wednesday that, for Davis, it was always about keeping staff happy, engaged and committed. The rest would take care of itself.

“The thing about Peter is he cares so much for the employees and the patients,” said Jim McKenna, St. Joseph’s vice president of outpatient services.

“He always said, ‘As long as the employees and patients are OK, the rest will take care of itself … He never swayed from that mission.”

And so we learned that he has now placed his own medical needs in some of those very people who he sought to inspire in their care for others. He is receiving chemotherapy at St. Joseph and quipped on Wednesday: “I’m back here tomorrow for another cocktail.”

Perhaps it is that, more than all of Davis’ many accomplishments, which speaks to his belief in his hospital, its staff and the community they serve.