A Conversation With: Patrick O'DonnellPresident and CEO, Summit Health; executive vice president, WellSpan Health
Patrick O'Donnell, 60, has been president and CEO of Franklin County-based Summit Health since 2013.
Under Summit’s new affiliation with WellSpan Health, he will serve as an executive vice president with WellSpan’s management team. He joined Summit in 1985 as controller at Chambersburg Hospital.
O’Donnell earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Shippensburg University and an MBA from Frostburg State University in Maryland.
He and his wife of 37 years live in Chambersburg. They have two sons and a daughter.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your role in Summit’s new affiliation with WellSpan?
A: We’re going to be able to continue what our vision is about, inspiring hope for a healthier life in our community. The common theme is making sure we can have as much comprehensive care as close to home as possible. We serve a number of underserved populations or working poor, where if they have to drive to get health care, that takes money off their table. I know WellSpan has really emphasized local systems of care. One of our main goals going into an affiliation was to be able to plan for health care not only today but for future generations, and to make sure we can provide that in a comprehensive manner with the quality, safety and efficiency we have in the past.
What is Summit Health’s greatest strength and what does that add to the WellSpan system?
Summit as a health care system is an extremely critical community partner. When someone comes here and they’re at their most vulnerable time of life, we’re here to provide hope for a better day. We do that by working with Coyle Free Library to provide literacy for our children. Or you look at what we’ve done with offering fruits and vegetables through our gleaning program with our community partners. We have a number of educational programs, both trying to help people stay healthy but also to give them a track to get an education in the health care field.
Our employees are leaders in the community, in church, in youth groups or other nonprofits. We really try to give back and feel connected. There’s no doubt that WellSpan is in the absolute same place.
You have been with Summit since 1985 and worked your way up to lead the organization. What advice would you give someone who wants to follow a similar career path?
My background was more in business, but what I have found fascinating is just the amount of knowledge I was able to acquire from others, primarily by reading. Lifelong learning is absolutely critical. I did not set out to be CEO; that was never a goal I had when I first started, but what I try to look for is opportunity within change.
There hasn’t been one day I ever felt I don’t want to come to work. Find something where you can match your energy and passion to what you do.
When do you do your holiday shopping: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday or … ?
It is a combination. I don’t like Black Friday because I just don’t like crowds. I do enjoy going to small businesses, and I do a lot of online shopping now. What I really love this time of year is going to big malls. I enjoy the festivities and hustle and bustle.