'Life's Work': Edsel Retiring as Pinehurst Surgical CEO
A plaque on the atrium wall of the Pinehurst Surgical building bears a poem written by Bill Edsel, the retiring chief executive officer of the clinic.
Called "When I See, I Remember Why," the verse is a tribute to the service that Edsel believes the doctors and the staff offer. When he sees patients with the wide variety of conditions that the clinic deals with, Edsel wrote in the poem, "I remember why we devote life's work to helping people."
Pinehurst Surgical includes a large staff of medical professionals devoting their life's work to helping people, and Edsel has served as its CEO for the past 15 years.
A native North Carolinian, he grew up in Winston-Salem, and holds a bachelor's degree in management from Guilford College and a master's degree in political science/administration from Appalachian State University in Boone. Early in his career, he held positions with Forsyth County Environmental Affairs, and then with the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University.
While at Bowman Gray, Edsel received a call from a friend who told him about an opening in Cleburne, Texas, a small town north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"My wife, also a native North Carolinian, and I talked it over and decided that since we had lived in North Carolina all our lives, it was time to venture out and experience living in another part of the country," Edsel says.
He became the administrator of the Kimbro Medical Center, a multi-specialty group practice with more than 30 providers and about 165 employees in a rural town of 22,000 people. The couple and their two children, 7 and 8 at the time of the move, spent the next 12 years in Cleburne. In fact, their offspring consider themselves Texans and stayed on to go to college, marry and raise their own families in the Southwest.
When Bill and CC Edsel determined that they wanted to move back to the Southeast -- "anywhere east of the Mississippi, south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and north of Florida," as Edsel says. He called a friend in Charlotte and asked him if he was interested in his job in Texas.
"He turned me down," Edsel says, "but mentioned the position in Pinehurst."
At first, Edsel wasn't enthusiastic, but he agreed to fly in, take a look at the situation and interview for the opening. And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
"While the clinic had a long and well respected history in Moore County, it had fallen into relatively poor financial condition," says Jim Moe, who has been the chief financial officer of Pinehurst Surgical for 14 years. "Bill was very disciplined and consistent in his approach, and I think that gave him a lot of credibility with the staff. He is a man with great vision who was willing to take reasonable risks to help Pinehurst Surgical become a premier practice. He is very knowledgeable of state-of-the-art practices in medical management and firmly believed that Pinehurst Surgical should and could be among the best in the country."
To Edsel, the greatest challenge of the past 15 years was to bring the practice into the 21st century, as it relates to management of the organization.
"Previously, we had not met some national standards," he says. "So, working with our physicians and our employees, we tried to emphasize that although the standards might be considered irrelevant, it was important to meet them in order to become a world-class organization. We have endeavored to set the bar higher each year so that we are a model surgical group practice."
Another key challenge was the move into the present building in July 2006.
According to Edsel, the move, accomplished in just four days, had been in the planning stages for a year. The practice, with 37 doctors and 285 employees and 30 years' accumulation of records and equipment housed in a 68,000-square-foot building across the street from the present facility, was shut down on a Thursday. It reopened at 7:45 a.m. the following Monday for patients' appointments in a remarkably designed new 110,000-square-foot building.
During that four-day period, the staff, physicians and technicians installed 800 devices -- computers, telephones, instruments and systems, such as X-ray, CAT scan and MRI.
"We have gone all-digital with an electronic medical records system, and we have a sophisticated network of wireless communication within the building," Edsel says. "Everything that we do within the facility now is electronic."
Aside from the cutting-edge technology that marks the operation of Pinehurst Surgical, a number of patient- and staff-friendly facets have been introduced into the present facilities. Such elements as a separate waiting room for cell phone users and a supply of umbrellas at the front door in case of an unexpected shower are augmented by four staff break rooms strategically placed throughout the building, complete with vending machines and lending libraries with novels and nonfiction.
Another touch in this warm and welcoming environment is a supply of stationery and envelopes together with a note encouraging those waiting to write a letter to someone special and stating that a staff member will be glad to affix postage and see that it gets mailed.
John Rezen, chief operating officer of Pinehurst Surgical, will temporarily step into the vacancy left by Edsel's retirement on Sept. 30, becoming acting CEO while a search committee seeks out a permanent replacement.
Rezen describes Edsel as a fine person.
"He is very skilled in the way he handles people, and insightful as to how the business of running a medical practice should be done," Rezen says. "I have been here about a year, and the time that I have spent with Bill has been a good learning experience for me."
During Edsel's tenure at Pinehurst Surgical, he became a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He had previously become a Fellow of the American College of Medical Practice Executives and a member of the Medical Group Management Association. He has written numerous articles and lectured on topics of interest to professionals in the health care field.
'Won't Sit on Porch'
How does Edsel plan to spend his retirement?
"I am probably going to take the first three months to decompress," he says. "After that, I may be doing some consulting -- I want to pass along to others the wealth of knowledge I have accumulated during my career. And of course I would like to volunteer my services where they may be needed. I am definitely not going to sit on the front porch and rock away my days."
Edsel adds that he and his wife will probably do some traveling as well. They are looking at some European trips, maybe Egypt and Greece, and possibly a western trip. He will record their travels by combining three of his avocations -- writing, photography and computers -- turning the journeys into Power Point presentations or vignettes, such as the one he produced recently of a Danube River cruise during the summer.
An interest in genealogy is also one of Edsel's hobbies. What got him started was a call from a long-lost relative of his wife's several years ago, inviting them to a family reunion. He then realized that he didn't know that much about his father's side of the family, and started tracking down his father's relatives.
The end result of that research was the organization by Bill and CC of an Edsel family reunion in Pinehurst five years ago, and now each segment of the family takes turns in hosting the annual event, this year to be held in the Wilkesboro area.
Bill Edsel's motivated drive in locating and accumulating a data base of 2,500 names comprising his and his wife's family should come as no surprise to his employees and those who have worked closely with him at Pinehurst Surgical.
"During the 11 years I have worked with him, his mental energy and business acumen have never ceased to amaze me," says Phyllis Schuck, chief information officer for Pinehurst Surgical. "He is a dynamic person, capable of infusing others with enthusiasm for his vision of what an organization can accomplish."
Bill Edsel's passion for Pinehurst Surgical is the benchmark of his 15-year career as the CEO of the organization. He says he believes his most significant accomplishment has been his work with the physicians and employees at Pinehurst Surgical and with FirstHealth, which has contributed to the overall availability of quality health-care services to the citizens of the community.
His words are reinforced by David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot, who has worked with Edsel on the Board of Directors of the local Chamber of Commerce.
"He always has had the welfare of the community at heart," Woronoff says.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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