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Leading During Challenging Times

by Robert W. Tull | September 15, 2021 | Company News

So, what do the pandemic of 2020 and 9/11 have in common? Both were periods of time that I served as Chairman of Chesapeake Hospital Authority and President of The Rotary Club of Chesapeake, respectively. The video of two passenger planes flying into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center resulted in enormous fear as America endured an attack on her own soil.


Subsequent attacks on the Pentagon and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania resulted in the deaths of 2,977 Americans. Those scenes will be indelibly etched in my memory and the lives of so many others. Living in a military community, many family members of our Rotary Members were deployed in harms way and local emergency responders dispatched to New York City and Washington DC.

Local and military leaders, as well as emergency managers, gave presentations on planning out scenarios of response should attacks come to our local community. We all watched as these heroes at home and abroad worked tirelessly to help repair and defend our country.

When it came to my time as Chairman at the Chesapeake Hospital Authority, another tragedy struck, but this time the true heroes I saw in action were the health care workers. Even now, they continue to endure the most challenging environment, working long hours to help others to overcome the COVID-19 Pandemic. As we move into the second year of this season, we must continue to honor these workers, their sacrifice and dedication.

doctor holding vaccine while wearing face masks

Looking back on my tenure as Board Chair, I am reminded that the Pandemic hit at the beginning of a 75-million-dollar construction project at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. You can imagine that there were many discussions about halting the Critical Care Tower that was being built. After much debate, and with the utmost concern for the long-term care of our community, we moved forward and the project continues on today.

The mission at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, like many other medical organizations, is to improve the health care of its citizens by focusing on care and quality. Even though the pandemic has disrupted daily life, long-range planning cannot be put on hold. Two off-site planning meetings were held during the year to update the 3-year strategic plan, ensuring it is current and forward thinking.

I am so thankful for those who joined these meetings to look into the future and consider health care needs in a post-pandemic world while the chaos of the current world raged on.

Focusing on quality in health care is our number one priority, which is why receiving a four-star rating from CMS on quality was a major highlight of the year. The Neurosciences buildout that occurred will allow quicker response time for local stroke victims and a much-needed full-service Pharmacy was opened in South Norfolk. And of course, beyond the acute care provided to our patients, members of the team provided 23,000 COVID vaccinations to residents in partnership with the local churches in our community.

Another highlight of the year was the announcement in June that a Veterans Administration community-based outpatient clinic was approved to be built adjacent to Chesapeake Regional. This will allow a partnership between both public entities the opportunity to collaborate and better serve the medical needs of our Veterans.

When I look back on the past year, I have learned from so many great leaders who have led their teams through the difficulties of a global pandemic. I have watched Reese Jackson, the CEO of CRMC practice the art of listening to points of view other than your own, allowing him to navigate the rough seas of COVID. My friend Ronnie Sloan, the president of The Outer Banks Hospital, often reminded his team to think with GRIT; that tomorrow will be better. And I am reminded of a familiar quote by Winston Churchill who led his country through the tumultuous time of World War Two.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” In the midst of difficulties, it is important to demonstrate to those you are leading that the current situation will not last forever. The key is to lean forward and have the courage to continue.

Often my wife Cathy and I will rise early on a Monday morning to drive to work following a weekend on the Eastern Shore. Driving home recently, she exclaimed, “stop the car, look there is a full rainbow that is covering the sky!” As I stopped to view the beauty of the rainbow, it reminded me of a promise that in seasons of difficulty, there is a beginning and there is an end. We just have to keep moving.