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Backtalk with Martin L. Doordan, AAHS

Oct 27, 2011 05:13PM ● Published by Anonymous

With exclamation points at the end of every sentence uttered, Martin L. Doordan—“Chip,” as his colleagues, family, and friends know him—fondly reflects on his near 40 years serving the region’s health community. Though his career with AAHS dates back to 1972, since ’94, Doordan oversaw the entire organization as president and CEO, during what could be considered the most rapid period of growth and expansion in AAHS history. Doordan retired from the position this past June, with Victoria Bayless—whom Doordan mentored—taking the helm. In a recent interview, Doordan walks us down memory lane and offers his take on the relationships that are critical to providing exceptional health care to our state’s citizens.


You spent nearly four decades within the Anne Arundel Health System. Looking back, did you ever imagine your career would experience such stability?

It has been an interesting ride for me. I was very lucky. Most professionals in health care don’t get the opportunity to stay in one place. To be able to do so was fortunate. I consider myself very blessed. I never had a day where I didn’t want to go to work. Some days were more difficult than others.

What is your background (born and raised) and education? Did you plan a career in health care early on?

I grew up in Bridgeville in Delaware and left there to attend the University of Delaware, where I spent most of my time in agriculture. I then went to grad school at University of Maryland (College Park) [earning a first masters, in agriculture economics], but I got into the profession via the Army. I landed a position in the med core of the Army during Vietnam. I fell in love with medicine and spent three years overseas. Then, it was more grad school at George Washington University [earning a second masters, in health care administration], before I joined Anne Arundel. When I came to the hospital, early on, Lyman “Whit” Whittaker and Chuck Pernetto became mentors of mine.

There have obviously been many changes to the field of health care in your time, but what have been some of the most significant?

I came to a very nice small community hospital and have seen it transform into a full-grown regional health system. The expansion overall is amazing. The technological advances and sophistication of treatment, as well. And the collaborative efforts in the medical community, coming together to provide a system of care.

What were some of your toughest challenges as CEO and what was your overall approach to problem solving?

I basically take on the responsibility of the health care of a community. What I’ve seen personally over the years is that managing of growth and change; trying to work collaboratively with medical communities. In the old days, the hospital was the hospital; the medical community used the facility as needed. As medicine became more complex,more community members have become more aligned with the facility. Every doctor has a contractual relationship.We’ve grown, expanded. More people than ever need care and it’s a challenge to meet that need.

Having an open heart surgical center and getting approval was the biggest challenge I wish I had met. Outreach and public relations is a big part of the position of CEO. Did you enjoy that aspect of the job?

I loved every minute of it. I always like to take the position that if we didn’t get something right, we’d say it and try to get it right and better. I never had any trouble going out and talking about the institution, the staff, the volunteers, or raising philanthropic needs, or convincing a doctor to come to us.

Even though I’ve been an introvert at heart, I’ve had no problem being an extrovert to advocate for the hospital.

Recently the hospital began an ongoing leadership lecture series, open to the public, and named after you. Please discuss the genesis of this project.

The board honored me with the Doordan Institute and they set up the series that will continue for years to come.We had the first in the series with Ted Turner. I simply hope to be continued to be invited. I am staying on the Foundation Board by virtue of being past-CEO and hope to continue working on the philanthropy.

When you reflect on your career, what satisfies you the most about your work and collaboration with others? Is there any singular accomplishment you’d hang your hat on, so to speak?

Nobody does anything by themselves. I was blessed to be surrounded by some incredibly talented folks. I’m very proud of where we are and having Victoria Bayless take over. She’s basically my legacy. I had two great mentors; I hope I was one to Tory.

And finally, how do you plan to enjoy retirement? Is slowing down a real possibility or are there new endeavors on the horizon?

After this many years, I’m going to back off for a little while. I’d like to do some health care things or something entirely different. I’m still very viable and active. I want to stay engaged.

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