The Future of Community-Focused Healthcare | Branded Content | Health | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

The stability of a community is often seen in the strength of its services—from schools to libraries, housing organizations, food banks, and hospitals, just to name a few. In rural areas, ensuring that all residents receive equitable access to these services is a vital part of planning for the health of the community's future.

No one understands the impact that a service organization can have in a community better than Columbia Memorial Health's (CMH) new CEO, Dorothy M. Urschel, who began her role this January after three years as CMH's chief operating officer (COO). With a 30-year career that spans on-the-ground clinical work and administrative leadership, Urschel has a particularly strong understanding of the needs of those whose lives are touched by a local healthcare organization—patients, providers, staff, and everyone in the community.

"On the administrative side, I bring expertise in developing our clinical services that align physicians and other health care providers for consistent, coordinated, and high-quality specialty care," Urschel says. "At a more fundamental level, I bring the perspective of a person who spent years caring for very sick patients at the bedside. One must never forget that everything we are doing has to be about caring for and serving the patient. If we forget that, we have lost our way."

Urschel began her career as a critical care nurse in Buffalo, then went on to become a nurse practitioner and worked for over 20 years in intensive care, cardiac surgery, and thoracic surgery. She has held academic positions at the University at Buffalo and Daemen University in Amherst, New York. After moving into a role in healthcare administration, she earned her MBA at the University of Albany.

As CMH's COO, Urschel developed a keen understanding of its Hudson hospital, more than 40 primary and specialty care centers, and the needs of the over 100,000 residents it serves across mostly rural Columbia and Greene counties. During that time, she played a key role in CMH's Covid response plan and has been a leading member on the team working to implement a single electronic medical record (EMR) across the Albany Med Health System, which will link all hospitals within the system, allowing patients to access multiple levels of care more seamlessly.

When it comes to the future of CMH, Urschel places great importance on continuing its long-standing commitment to its community by building on its strength as part of the Albany Med Health System. "Our connection with the System and the region's academic medical center is critically important as it brings advanced care, resources and expertise to our patients," she says. "As a rural community hospital, this partnership is essential."

Under her leadership, CMH will continue preserving local access to specialty care by developing its centers of health care excellence, which are awarded with accreditation for rigorous quality, safety, and patient experience standards. These include programs in pain management, orthopedics, women's health and gynecologic surgery, breast health, gastroenterology (with an emphasis on endoscopy), and continued growth in primary care.

"Health systems are moving to address healthcare disparities, inequalities, and overall health at the community level," Urschel says. To that end, CMH will continue to expand on its work with community organizations to provide pediatric care, health literacy programs, addiction counseling, food and nutrition, and mental health services.

"Our vision for CMH, with the Albany Med Health System, is to be the healthcare provider of choice for our community," says Urschel. "We strive for excellence and innovation while preserving our special culture of ownership and empathy, never forgetting that we are friends and family caring for friends and family."

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