Obici Hospital announces leadership changes

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Sentara Healthcare announced on Tuesday that its Obici Hospital is undergoing a planned transition in leadership, with the retirement or resignation of three senior executives.

Dr. Steve Julian, president of Sentara Obici Hospital, has announced plans to retire in early May after 11 years at the hospital. He served as president for six years and as vice president of medical affairs for more than four years.

Additionally, current Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Lora Herman announced plans to resign after more than five years in the role, while Sentara Obici’s Nurse Executive Phyllis Stoneburner announced in early February that she planned to retire in April. Friday will be Stoneburner’s last day at the hospital, according to the press release.


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“This is a time of change and opportunity,” Corporate Vice President Terrie Edwards stated in an internal memo that announced the impending departures. “Each of these leaders has made significant contributions and left their imprint at Sentara Obici Hospital. While they will be missed, I am grateful for being part of a health system with other leaders committed to partnering with us for an effective transition.”

Julian said in a phone interview on Tuesday that he had made plans last year to retire after the expansion and renovation of the Sentara BelleHarbour campus in North Suffolk was completed this year. The $33.5 million expansion — including a second medical office building, ambulatory surgery center, observation beds and an expanded emergency department with a helipad — was unveiled on Thursday.

Amy Black, chief operating officer at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, was selected to be the interim president for Sentara Obici.

Edwards stated in the press release that Jessica Lowder, vice president of operations at Sentara Obici and a Suffolk native, has also taken on additional responsibilities during this transition.

“We are grateful for the strength and depth of the Sentara system as we wish our retiring executives well,” Edwards stated.

Julian was a cardiothoracic surgeon who practiced in Maryland for 28 years before joining Sentara Obici in 2008, following the Louise Obici Memorial Hospital-Sentara Healthcare merger in 2006.

As vice president of medical affairs, Julian led the integration of Sentara’s safety culture and helped launch the Sentara eCare electronic medical record. He was also system leader for two high-performance teams that worked to optimize quality and safety and adopt best practices for surgical services and critical care at all Sentara hospitals.

“Our real goal is to constantly keep patients safe and constantly improve organizational performance, both on the hospital side of things and the medical side of things,” he said.

As president, he expanded the hospital’s campus into a comprehensive medical destination by consolidating community-based services in new and existing buildings on campus.

He thanked Stoneburner and Herman for their support in “operationalizing” management at the hospital to accommodate the growth that has occurred in Suffolk during his tenure.

“We’ve had tremendous growth, we’ve had a lot of changes, and we have navigated all those very smoothly,” he said.

He oversaw development and expansions at both Sentara BelleHarbour and Sentara St. Luke’s outpatient campuses to improve access and patient services in North Suffolk, Isle of Wight County, Smithfield and the surrounding areas.

“I think we’re well positioned to manage the medical needs of the community,” he said.

He said that he has “tremendously enjoyed” the relationships he’s developed both in Sentara and the Suffolk community. He now looks forward to spending more time with family, knowing that the hospital is in good hands.

“I think the strength of the organization will shine through in this period,” he said.

Nurse Executive Stoneburner has been with Sentara Obici for 16 years. Her most recent accomplishment was the successful conclusion of a multi-year effort to achieve Magnet recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Only 8 percent of all U.S. hospitals achieve Magnet, an honor that demonstrates an integral nursing role in leadership, facility design and culture, according to the press release.

Stoneburner also helped establish the hospital’s Patient-Family Advisory Council and launch the Sentara Senior Health Services Transition of Care Clinic to prevent readmissions.

She represented the hospital on the board of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, and she was instrumental in Sentara Obici winning the 2012 National Research Corporation “Path to Excellence” award for improving patient satisfaction scores, according to the press release.

The interim nurse executive is Donna Wilmoth, nurse executive at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. She has been transitioning into this position with Stoneburner’s assistance.

Herman, the resigning vice president of medical affairs and a board certified pathologist, was critical in convening the Sentara Peer Review Chairs Forum, an effort to standardize physician peer review across all Sentara hospitals’ medical staffs.

Edwards stated in the press release that Sentara is optimistic in its upcoming search for Sentara Obici’s next president and vice president of medical affairs.

“Suffolk is a great community, and Sentara is looking forward to beginning the executive search for president and vice president of medical affairs,” Edwards stated. “Since the nurse executive position was announced in February, the interview process has been under way and an announcement is expected soon.”