Message from the Regent|
I called Bryant Aldridge in the mid 70s to ask advice. Bryant, a former fullback at Duke in the late 1950s, went to Northwestern for his MHA and early in his career built the first all private room hospital in North Carolina. His hospital, located in Rocky Mount, NC, grew under his thirty plus years of leadership to become Nash Health Care System which serves well the City of Rocky Mount, Nash County and a good part of eastern North Carolina. As a brand new CEO of a small hospital in 1973, I met Bryant, asked for his advice and he became one of the best mentors, and more importantly, the best friend I could ever have had.
I remember this call as I described a situation where all but one of the medical staff had quit delivering babies and families were going out of the county for their prenatal and pediatric care. Bryant listened patiently, asked a few questions and then told me something that, at the time, I did not consider much of an answer to my hospital’s problems. He said, “you know Fred, out of challenge comes opportunity.” As we ended the call, I can remember thinking that that advice was not much help. I wanted a solution and needed it soon.
I continued to think about Bryant’s advice as I tried to figure out how to convert this challenge to opportunity. The community really needed OB-GYN coverage, but we did not have enough business for two. There were enough Family Practitioners in the area, but I could not convince any who had given up delivering babies to go back into doing it again.
Remember, this was before email (people actually wrote letters!). One day I received a letter from Bryant with an article about a new program at the Medical University of South Carolina where they were training Certified Nurse Midwives. I picked up the phone, talked to the director of the program and within a few weeks had two midwives visiting the community. They were looking for a place where they could practice with an Obstetrician (they already had a candidate) and where family friendly obstetrics would be a drawing card. I put together a business plan, gained reluctant support of the medical staff and had the plan approved by the Board.
We converted a couple of old wards to what are now called LDRs , brought the midwives and the new OB to town, put articles and adds in the paper and to my amazement, patients came from far and wide! We went from less than 100 deliveries per year to over 300 in just 12 months. Patients loved the service, the care. We added a new pediatrician to cover all of the new pediatric business. This, the first hospital based nurse midwifery practice in the state, was not without critics at first but history has proven this to be safe and high quality service. The hospital received good publicity and we were able to add other new services by, as Bryant Aldridge has suggested, converting challenges into opportunities.
Bryant Aldridge is facing his own challenges now. I am sure that he and his wonderful wife, Jean will try every way they can to find opportunities for themselves, their family and many friends to find comfort in the challenges they face.
Bryant looked at the world as a place to seek opportunity and to do things in new and better ways. The first all private room hospital in the state, the first hospital with bedside computers in the Southeast, the first “Day Hospital” that was designed and built for outpatient growth, all were Bryant’s ways of finding opportunity in challenge.
We can all learn from the legacy and work of this good man as it applies to the challenges we face today. There are new and better ways to serve our populations. We can get more value from the money we are spending, there are better ways to deliver care and with imagination and fortitude, we will achieve all this and more.
Thank you, Bryant Aldridge for being my friend and mentor. I encourage all of you more senior Fellows to seek to help younger members convert challenges into opportunities. I urge you more junior careerists to seek out good advice from people who have made a real difference. Healthcare and our profession will be better for it.
I consider it a great privilege to be your Regent.
Fred T. Brown, Jr., FACHE
Regent for North Carolina