Behind every great healthcare system is a Dr. Michael Whitters. Now most of you know Dr. Mike for his amazing bedside manner and medical skills – but little known, is the guy who quietly leads from the back of the pack with determination and love.
Personally, I don’t think I really knew what medicine was about until it hit home, and I actually experienced the healthcare system. You all know my story about my mom and my epiphany with what healthcare is about – excellent quality and amazing service equals success … but I’m not sure if you realize the impact of Dr. Whitters in the whole equation.
I came to Clarion as a contract employee from Trinity Hospital in Fort Dodge in 1996 – Dr. Whitters left here in 1997. He left to be the Chief Medical Officer/CEO of Trimark Physicians group out of Fort Dodge. He stayed a couple of years and came back to Clarion to practice medicine. From 2000 to 2002, we started looking at a company called the StuderGroup, and we liked what we saw. A change in our culture. I tell the new staff members at orientation that Quint preached that it was all about bringing care and compassion back to the bedside – with accountability. It took hold and the journey started.
Mom passed away September 8, 2002. It was a hard time for me. On Saturday afternoon, September 28, 2002, Dr. Whitters called my cell phone. I was in the parking lot of Superfoods in Clarion. He said he and the other providers would like to become part of the hospital family. They were currently employees of Trimark. Or … they’d go elsewhere. I said the choice was obvious – of course we’ll hire you all … closing the hospital for lack of providers was not an option. This was the first of the “big” moves that Mike instigated. We (myself included because this move got me fired from Trinity) became Clarion hospital employees on January 1, 2003.
In 2005, a group of Ortho providers asked if we had an ability to handle their services – I think Dr. Whitters was excited about this and encouraged us to do this. In the summer of 2006, Dr. Whitters (on the hospital governing board at the time) encouraged the union of Belmond and Clarion hospitals. “It’s the right thing to do, Steve. It’s not about business – it’s about rural communities standing up and supporting each other.” I couldn’t disagree with that argument.
Dr. Mike brought people on board – doctors and staff with enthusiasm. He was the endless cheerleader on new things. When I said “no … I don’t think so”, he gave me signs for my office like “Keep Moving Forward” and “I dream bigger”, and did interventions on me to re-align my attitude. He worked behind the scenes to make this place fun. (A lot of the plays and awards and parties were his idea. We couldn’t ever object, because 1. You don’t tell him “no” and 2. They were great ideas!) His infectious attitude and culture was based in excellent quality and amazing service for life.
Dr. Whitters may be retiring from medical practice, but I think our wise sage and joyful leader from the back of the pack will continue for years to come. Nancy Gabrielson used to say that different people in her life were gifts from God. Dr. Michael Whitters is truly a gift from the Almighty, and I look forward to his wisdom for years to come.