by Alexis Ann
This past July, David Whitehead, took the lead position as Chief Executive Officer and President of Backus Hospital, the community hospital where he was born 49 years ago. David joined Backus in 1999 and served as Vice President for Planning since 2003.
David credits his early career beginnings to Electric Boat, 1981 – 1989, stating, “Here’s a local guy of the generational model. My father worked at Electric Boat, my uncles worked at Electric Boat, my father-in-law worked at Electric Boat like everybody in the early 80’s, if you were going to stay here, you found a way into Electric Boat.” It was there, while working in the contracts division, that he developed an interest in Human Resources.
David credits, “My undergrad degree was great, but going to the University of Electric Boat was probably the best education I ever got in terms of my development as a professional.”
In 1989, David joined the Gannett Company’s Human Resource Department at his hometown newspaper, The Norwich Bulletin, the paper he delivered as a kid. Climbing the corporate ladder, in 1993, David was asked to become the publisher of the Marietta Ohio Times. He and his family relocated until ‘96. Returning home, David took the lead position as president and publisher of the Bulletin.
There were further opportunities to leave Southeastern Connecticut during the Gannett days, but that was not an option. The family’s decision was to stay here. As the saying goes, “There’s no place like home.” They realized how much they missed this area. The Whitehead Family gained increased appreciation for the “value” of our region. David feels very fortunate for the opportunity to join Backus Hospital as Vice President of Corporate Communication.
“It was the opportunity to take all of those things that I had developed in my career at that time and bring them into a health care setting.” “…To effectively communicate, not only internally, but most importantly, externally, with the community, with our patients and with our stakeholders. The ability to look at the hospital’s services and programs from a market development perspective.”
David returned to night school in 2004 in pursuit of a Masters of Science Degree in Health Care Administration. “I recognized that I needed to make this sacrifice to better develop myself for a role in health care.”
“Leadership skills never stop developing. If you want to continue along a career path that you set for yourself and you want to obtain that ultimate dream, you have a personal responsibility to develop your own skill set and your own tool box,” says David.
“Our greatest challenge, which is also our opportunity, is to position this hospital for continued viability for the next several decades.” David attributes this to the stakeholders working together. Stakeholders include: the community, patients, our volunteers and board, expert medical staff, our team of over 1800 people.
On the topic of health care reform, David is a proponent of “health care evolution.” That is, “Changing our system over time instead of quickly.”
Collaboration is an essential component of this process. “We have very strong community collaborators in the delivery of health care. A recent example of this is when L&M Hospital experienced a transformer fire with a loss of power. L&M and we collaborated.”
On the topic of the flu? “Do the responsible thing and get the flu shot!” says David.