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March 31, 2017

Hospital administrator says farewell after four decades

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Scotti Joseph, head of the Fauquier Hospital Auxiliary, thanks Rodger Baker for his 40 years of service during Wednesday’s reception.
Photo/Fauquier Health
Mr. Baker with Chad Melton, his successor as Fauquier Health’s chief executive.
Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Jan Selbo shares a story with Mr. Baker and Mary Leigh McDaniel at Wednesday’s reception in the Sycamore Room.
Longtime employees Amanda Sturgeon, Charlotte Robey and Mary Beth Waldeck listen to Mr. Baker’s remarks.
The one constant thing has been Rodger and his leadership. As citizens of the local community, we owe a lot to Rodger
— Ray Knott, Fauquier Health chairman
Rodger Baker
• Age: 67

• Home: Warrenton

• Work: Chief transition officer, Fauquier Health, Feb. 12 to March 31; president/CEO, Fauquier Health, 1987-February 2017; assistant administrator, Fauquier Hospital, 1977-87; administrative assistant, Roanoke Memorial Hospital, 1976-77.

• Education: Master’s degree, health care administration, Trinity (Texas) University, 1976; bachelor’s, biology, New Mexico State University, 1973.

• Awards: Fauquier County Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year, 1999; Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association Distinguished Service Award, 2012.

• Family: Wife, Sue; three adult daughters, and four grandchildren.
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Editor
Fauquier Health’s longtime chief executive came to Warrenton with a short-term plan.

“When we moved here in 1977, I told Sue we’d be here a couple of years,” Rodger Baker said during his retirement reception Wednesday. “We stayed a little longer than two years.”

Self-effacing, with an understated sense of humor, Mr. Baker will retire Friday after 40 years in the same place. The 67-year-old joined Fauquier Hospital as assistant administrator and then served three decades as chief executive of the county’s largest non-government enterprise, which employs 1,200.

More than 200 people attended the reception in the Sycamore Room, part of Fauquier Hospital’s five-story “tower,” built under his leadership.

Briefly interrupting his remarks, Mr. Baker turned to a wall switch and raised the large room’s bank of window blinds late Wednesday afternoon.

“One of the things we wanted to do with the project was have a nice place to talk with the community . . . with a nice view looking out over Warrenton,” he said.

Founded in 1958, the hospital essentially rebuilt itself, starting in 2002. To do so, Fauquier Health went “whole hog,” borrowing $65 million.

“The board really was very supportive,” Mr. Baker recalled. “A lot of the smaller community hospitals around us couldn’t do that . . . . We really only had one chance.”

Soon thereafter, the hospital adopted the Planetree model, focused on patient-centered care that emphasizes communication and a pleasant environment.

“We felt the need to differentiate ourselves,” he said. “But, it wasn’t really in vogue back them . . . . There were a lot of skeptics on the board, because it was a lot of change for us . . . (and) the culture of the organization.”

About two-thirds of the hospital management staff left thereafter, but the new approach took root. And, patient-centered care has spread throughout the healthcare industry, Mr. Baker noted.

“It’s really a way to connect with folks. That’s something I’m very proud of.”

By the time Fauquier Health’s leaders began serious consideration of merger partners, they made continuation of the Planetree approach “non-negotiable,” he added.

The retiring administrator, who could make anyone feel at ease, as Fauquier resident Cathy Dyson wrote in the Fredericksburg newspaper Sunday, said he will leave his “Elvis suit and magic wand” with successor Chad Melton.

Much has changed since Mr. Baker started a Fauquier Hospital. Back then, the average patient stayed 14 days, he recalled.

The hospital’s outpatient services started crudely, with “a curtain” separating those undergoing that type of care in the emergency department from “somebody with a gunshot wound,” Mr. Baker said.

He gave credit to the doctors, nurses and other staff members who built the hospital, affiliated facilities and a range of healthcare services. Many of them came to shake the New Mexico native’s hand or to give him a hug Wednesday.

“The one constant thing has been Rodger and his leadership,” said Fauquier Health board Chairman Ray Knott, who reviewed the growth and changes. “As citizens of the local community, we owe a lot to Rodger.”

Mr. Melton presented a gift from the medical staff and employees to his predecessor, a vacation in Pinehurst, N.C.

Mr. Baker called his successor “the perfect person for the job . . . . He’s 40, the same age as my oldest daughter. So, he was 6 months old when I came here.

“He also did a paper on Planetree (as an undergraduate). He was probably the only person in LifePoint who knew about” the program before the Tennessee-based corporation bought 80 percent of Fauquier Health in late 2013.

Planning to stay in Warrenton, Mr. Baker promised he “won’t be a stranger” in retirement and joked he’d probably be back for senior night discounted meals at The Bistro on the Hill. Otherwise he plans to “clean up the basement, not Monday but soon.”

Scanning the audience, he said: “Like you, John (McCarthy, a board member), I married my high school sweetheart.

“I put that at the end, because the last time I did it, at my 50th birthday celebration, I was a basket case,” he said, choking up only a bit. “The staff at Claire’s said it was nice to see a guy show emotion.”

History of Fauquier Hospital by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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