Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reflections on 40 Years

In December 1967, a small group of dedicated community members came together to merge two hospitals, St. Francis and Community Hospitals, into Grinnell General Hospital. I understand this was not an easy task.

One of the aspects of the merger that has most intrigued me was the secret meetings held in Clinton with the Mother Superior of the Order of St. Francis. Frosty Mitchell, Al Eisenman, Frank Chrisbens, William Autrey, and Lawrence G. Keeney traveled separately to Clinton, Iowa. Frosty, Frank, and Bill, representing Community Hospital, traveled by car while Lawrence and William (Larry and Bill) flew by airplane to Clinton. They said that it would arouse much suspicion if these five men traveled together, so they decided on a different course. It almost sounds clandestine.

Those who were most involved in the day-to-day operations of the hospitals fully understood the situations they faced. It was difficult and neither organization was on solid ground. What they knew for sure was that one strong hospital would best serve the community instead of two hospitals that were dividing their resources, the physicians, and, ultimately, the community.

I have nothing but respect for these individuals who were passionate about their community and committed to providing quality healthcare. Their decisions were not always popular but made in a spirit of community betterment. It’s difficult to lead in a new direction when others aren’t quite seeing the same vision.

We have come a very long way in the past 40 years. Healthcare is changing at a blinding rate. The industry advances that have been made since I started working as a hospital administrator 25 years ago are more than I ever imagined as a student. Grinnell Regional Medical Center has grown from that solid foundation built from the experience of community leaders who love their community and want to make it stronger for everyone.

As I think about the merger of St. Francis and Community Hospitals, I am reminded of a quote by Margaret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small, committed group of citizens can change the world. In fact it is the only thing that ever has.”

The GRMC public relations department published a book celebrating the hospital's history. You may purchase the book at

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