Sentara anniversary marked by book

Published 7:01 pm Saturday, January 25, 2014

By Karen Washburn


Sentara Healthcare has marked its 125th anniversary with a new publication titled, “Celebrating the Past, Creating the Future.” The book is billed as “a historical book highlighting the individual histories of the regions, hospitals and services that are now part of Sentara.”

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Suffolk’s Louise Obici Memorial Hospital joined Sentara in 2006, becoming Sentara Obici Hospital. According to the book, which documents the merger, Louis Obici Memorial first considered merging with Sentara during the 1980s, after Williamsburg Community Hospital made the move, becoming Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. But at that time, the hospital’s leadership decided it was doing well on its own.

It was the building of its new 360,000-square-foot facility in April 2002 that changed their outlook. The book includes an aerial photograph of what is now Sentara Obici, describing the new structure as being state of the art, from the high-tech beds in its mostly private rooms to its digital technology, included a filmless radiology system.

“The impressive glass entrance rose like a lighthouse — a sunlit beacon to draw people into the safe, healing environment,” it says of the architecture.

But all this came with a price — a price, the book says, that “pushed Louise Obici Memorial Hospital some $60 million dollars in debt.” At that time, according to the book, a merger made sense.

“Both institutions were dedicated to a not-for-profit mission, had deep roots in their respective communities, and shared the same values and vision for the future,” the book explains.

The story of how Louise Obici Memorial became Sentara Obici, though important to the Suffolk community, is only a small element of the Sentara story. “Celebrating the Past, Creating the Future” chronicles health care, beginning when “most Americans gave birth, endured sickness, and even had surgery in their homes, (relying) on barber shops for extracting teeth and treating infections.” It ends with the state-of-the-art health care facilities we have today.

The photographs, sketches, and diagrams enhance the telling, with much of the oldest history centering around Norfolk.

“I believe (people) will find the collective history and photographs inspiring,” Dave Bernd, Sentara Healthcare chief executive officer, said of the book. “A true reminder of what can be accomplished when thousands of people work toward the same mission.”

Sentara operates more than 100 sites of care throughout Virginia and North Carolina, including 11 acute-care hospitals (seven in Hampton Roads, one in Northern Virginia, two in the Blue Ridge region of Virginia and one in southern Virginia). It has been ranked by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the nation’s top integrated health care systems for more than a decade.

To view photos, a timeline and other excerpts from the book, visit