Hospital president wants ‘to grow with Suffolk’

Published 9:16 pm Thursday, December 5, 2019

The future of Sentara Obici Hospital is bright, with bold modernizations on the horizon and an immediate emphasis on patient-focused care and a positive workplace environment — all under the leadership of the Suffolk hospital’s new president, Coleen Santa Ana.

Santa Ana assumed her role as Sentara Obici Hospital president in September, following Dr. Steve Julian’s retirement in April. Interim president Amy Black returned to her role as chief operating officer at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville.

Santa Ana is now responsible for the 172-bed Sentara Obici Hospital campus, which includes an integrated medical office building, a smaller office building and an ambulatory surgery center, according to a Sentara press release in July.


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She also oversees the Sentara BelleHarbour campus in North Suffolk, including a 24-hour freestanding emergency department and ambulatory surgery center, and Sentara St. Luke’s, an outpatient campus in Isle of Wight County.

Santa Ana came to Suffolk in the fall after serving as president of Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City, N.C., since 2014. According to the Sentara press release, in just under five years, Santa Ana and her leadership team turned around this struggling hospital that Sentara took over under a lease from Pasquotank County in March 2014.

Prior to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, Santa Ana served as a senior strategist with Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, in which she helped prepare Sentara’s successful response to Pasquotank County’s Request for Proposals for a hospital operator.

She also held increasingly responsible executive leadership roles with health systems in Colorado and Nevada before returning to Sentara, where she began her career as an administrative resident in 2003, the press release states.

In 2018, Santa Ana earned Modern Healthcare’s “Up and Comers Award,” according to

In an interview on Nov. 26, Santa Ana elaborated on a modernization that will take place at Obici over the next few years to meet the Suffolk community’s growing needs.

This includes the first modernization of Obici Hospital’s emergency department since the new Louise Obici Memorial Hospital building opened on Godwin Boulevard in 2002, prior to Sentara’s merger with Obici Health System in 2006.

This will be a 7,000-square-foot expansion of the department, as well as a renovation of the overall accommodations at Sentara Obici Hospital, Santa Ana said. There will be an increase from 24 patient care areas to 37 total care areas in the Emergency Department.

There will be improvements to make some rooms in the Emergency Department more private for more intensive care, and other rooms renovated for more convenient, faster “vertical care,” Santa Ana said. This project will take approximately two years to complete, with the groundbreaking expected in January.

“We’re essentially trying to grow with Suffolk and the greater area that we’re serving,” Santa Ana said. “This area has been absolutely growing — with housing developments, for example — and we want to make sure that we’re able to meet their needs as a hospital.”

Expanding the reach of the hospital and improving its quality of services to the Suffolk community, in accordance with Amedeo Obici’s legacy.

“We want to continue and expand upon the vision of Mr. Obici,” Santa Ana said.

The priority for the fourth quarter of this year is to further develop “patient-centered care culture” at Sentara Obici Hospital, including patient safety. Sentara has seen improvements at its various campuses to improve the quality of patients’ experiences.

Santa Ana said the inpatient psychiatric unit at Obici has doubled from 10 to 20 beds last year, and that there are plans to recruit another psychiatrist for the behavioral health unit.

Outpatient hours were expanded for the 3D mammography unit at Sentara BelleHarbour, where another imaging machine was also added. More primary care providers have been added to Sentara St. Luke’s, Sentara BelleHarbour and Obici Hospital.

Chiropractic care was also brought to Sentara Obici and BelleHarbour hospitals in September, both employed by Sentara. These are based in therapy centers in the YMCA across the street from Obici Hospital, and on the Sentara BelleHarbour campus in North Suffolk.

Santa Ana is also helping to foster a culture at Sentara Obici Hospital that encourages staff to speak up and provide their input. This speaks to Sentara’s safety tenets, such as paying attention to detail, having a questioning attitude and clearly communicating with other staff mid-crisis.

Santa Ana said it’s crucial that staff speak up and point out situations when they arise, so that the hospital can meet the high standards that are expected by patients.

“It’s an ever-changing industry. There are always improvements, and it’s highly competitive,” she said. “Everyone is working hard towards perfection, because that’s what people expect. We want to be right there with everybody, working hard.”

She also wants to help cultivate the current and future workforce of Sentara in Suffolk by making Obici Hospital a place where people want to work.

That includes a number of items on the holiday calendar for staff: a holiday meal for all of the staff — both day and night shift — at each campus, singing Santa festivities, holiday decorating contests, and caroling by the children in daycare at the hospital campus. There’s also an internal program at Obici Hospital to make sure that any staff in need have a great Christmas, Santa Ana said.

Hospitals like Obici are community institutions that thrive through partnerships that have been cultivated in the community — beneficial partnerships with the city, and its many departments, organizations and agencies.

Santa Ana has spent a great deal of her time thus far meeting with different organizations in the community, such as Healthy Suffolk, and with local community leaders.

She wants to foster the hospital’s community partnerships, to help build upon its outstanding culture, and to keep providing excellent care in the Suffolk community.

“We know that we’re an important part of the ecosystem of a community,” Santa Ana said. “A hospital is a big deal. We want to make sure that we’re fulfilling the community’s needs and expectations.”

With Santa Ana’s appointment, the Obici Hospital executive leadership team continues to rebuild. She joins new Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive Stephanie Jackson, a Suffolk native who moved from Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk in June after the retirement of Phyllis Stoneburner. The process to hire a new vice president of medical affairs to replace Dr. Lora Herman, who resigned, is also ongoing.