Gary Weinstein was in a reflective mood Tuesday morning, and why not. It’s been a prosperous 38 years.
“Expansion, I think, is the most important thing we’ve done, but it hasn’t been expansion for expansion sake,” he said. “We’ve gone from being the hospital on the hill that provided acute care to a system that has reached out to the community and provided better and more complete services.”
In calculated fashion, Washington Hospital morphed into Washington Health System over time, adding outpatient, diagnostic and children’s centers, partnerships with outside health care organizations and more. Oh, and a second hospital, WHS Greene.
Weinstein has been an integral part of so much of this, especially during the past nine years as president and chief executive officer. And he will continue being so ... for the next 19 days.
From his office inside the hospital on the hill, Weinstein announced Tuesday he will retire effective June 30.
Brook Ward, the current executive vice president and chief operating officer, will succeed him in those positions, and Rodney Louk, a 37-year employee, will succeed Ward as VP and COO, while continuing as chief information officer. He oversees all operations of the system.
This was not a difficult decision for Weinstein, 68, a Philadelphia area native who followed Telford Thomas as president and CEO in June 2010.
“I’d always projected myself as retiring between 65 and 70,” Weinstein said, adding that he set a date for this “a couple of years ago” without telling anyone outside his professional and personal inner circles.
“This has been my second family for a long time. I will miss a lot about this. But I have no mixed feelings about the health system. The future looks great. Brook is superbly prepared to not only keep the systems going, but to take it to new heights.”
Succeeding Weinstein will not be a new experience for Ward, who relocated from Kalamazoo, Mich., nine years ago to assume Weinstein’s prior positions as executive VP and COO.
“My initial thoughts are that Gary could stay as long as he wants,” Ward said, smiling. “I’m extremely proud to be moving into this position. I can’t say there will be extreme changes in direction. We have tremendous physicians, employees and board members here.”
But some developments are ahead. Ward said the health system will be adding some cardiology-related services “hopefully in September or October.” Additional changes include a labor and delivery floor targeted to open in November at Washington Hospital, the system’s flagship.
Ward, who grew up and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Michigan, is eager to handle his new assignments – but not overly eager.
“I’m trying to go into this in a very calm manner,” the South Strabane Township resident said. “I want us to continue to do things that are best for patients every day. If we keep our focus on that, we will do OK.”
Louk’s focus had been on thoughts of retirement, but he not only has put that off, he is picking up responsibilities.
“Brook and I discussed things and I decided to stay a little longer,” said Louk, who lives in Wintersville, Ohio. “It’s exciting to help Brook and our family here.”
He has certainly gotten the new president’s endorsement. “Rodney is extremely prepared for this job,” Ward said.
Changes at the top of WHS are less than three weeks away, and the respective parties are poised. Two will remain on board, one will depart. For Weinstein, retirement will be another chapter in what has been an interesting life.
He grew up near Philly, where he played basketball in high school before securing a bachelor’s at Bucknell University and a master’s from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. And, as a young man, he did something extremely selfless and inspiring: serving as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years, teaching junior high students in Ethiopia.
Weinstein married a Monroeville woman, Maryann, who is now a retired family physician. They reside in East Washington and will have more time to devote to their three married children and three grandchildren.
“I’m still pretty active athletically, with basketball and tennis,” said Weinstein, who really did say basketball. “I’ll probably do some volunteering and I enjoy reading. I’ve done a lot of that with health care and leadership. Now it will be more history and fiction.”
Ward is partially lamenting his predecessor’s pending absence, but realizes that Weinstein is a mere speed dial away.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Gary, thank him for his years of service and wish him luck in retirement. And we hope he answers the phone if we have a question.”