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New vice president to focus on improvements at Laurel Regional Hospital

As part of its continuing efforts to upgrade services, Laurel Regional Hospital has added Dr. Trudy Hall to its senior leadership team as the hospital's vice president of medical affairs. Among other duties, Hall will focus on aligning services and staff to improve the quality of care offered at the facility. She will also serve as medical director of rehabilitation for Dimensions Healthcare System, Laurel Regional's parent company.

Hall comes to Laurel Regional from the University of Maryland Hospital System, where she was chief medical officer for the system's University Specialty Hospital in Baltimore. Although Laurel Regional is much smaller than other places where she has worked, Hall said she is excited to take on the challenge of turning Laurel Regional into a premier health-care facility.

"I'm happy to be here working with a dedicated staff and leadership team," Hall said. "There are other hospitals and physicians in the area, so with the experience of our leaders here, and our experience with the University of Maryland, I hope to move Laurel Regional to be a provider of choice. I'm a fixer, and I want to find ways to make Laurel Regional better."

Hall said she is aware that although many improvements have been made at Laurel Regional in recent years, some residents still do not have the highest opinion of the facility. She said she realizes that changing that perception will not happen overnight.

"That is a realistic issue, so change will take time and will happen patient by patient and doctor by doctor. The most important thing is to make sure we do our job and provide evidence-based quality care," Hall said. "It will take time through patients and families having experiences of good outcomes. That is what it's going to take to let people know that it's a new day at Laurel (Regional)."

In addition to learning the health needs of the local community and working closely with physicians, Hall plans to expand the hospital's rehabilitation services and upgrade medical record keeping. Currently, medical records in the hospital's emergency room are electronically recorded, but that's not the case in the rest of the hospital.

"We plan to expand electronic medical record keeping throughout the hospital," Hall said. "It will take time to do it, but the hospital's organization is committed to it and willing to fund it."

Hall, who is a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician specializing in brain injuries, said making improvements to the hospital's rehabilitation services and expanding them is also on her list. She described the unit as an undervalued "diamond in the rough" that's producing good outcomes for patients. Currently, stroke patients can be treated at Laurel Regional on an inpatient basis, and in the next two to five years Hall wants to provide inpatient treatment for brain injury victims as well, so patients can stay close to home.

"Family and friend support is crucial to recovery, and if they can see their loved ones through the rehabilitation process, the better the outcomes, so they need that access," Hall said.

Hall said the hospital has the basic infrastructure and staff in place for the expansion but would need to hire more specialized staff.

Hospital president's recruit

Hall has the confidence of hospital President John Spearman, who also worked at the UMHS in the past and recruited her for the job. In a press release, Spearman praised Hall's credentials, which in addition to her medical and administrative experience, includes being a commissioner for seven years on the Health Services and Cost Review Commission.

Hall said that experience as a commissioner, where she initiated the state's medical reimbursement process, helped her learn the intricacies of hospital financial management.

City Council President Fred Smalls, who chairs the hospital's board, said he's looking forward to working with Hall and added, "She has extensive knowledge and capability in leading hospital quality and safety initiatives and shares our passion for patient care."

Hall continues to treat patients once a week in her Pikesville office, which she sees as a plus in helping her make administrative decisions at the hospital.

"I love taking care of patients, and I think because I still touch patients once a week, that's kept me grounded in remembering that whatever is done administratively, the patients and community come first. It gives me a different eye," Hall said.

Hall grew up in Queens, N.Y., and before she got married, she lived in Laurel for four years. She lives in Bowie now with her 8-year-old daughter and husband, Dr. Maurice Milles, who has a dentistry practice in Laurel on Route 1. She's musically inclined and plays the piano monthly for her church. She said after her father had eight strokes during the time she was in medical school, she decided to specialize in physical and rehabilitative medicine.

When Laurel Regional and UMHS formed a partnership in 2011, with UMHS taking over the staffing and management of the hospital's emergency room physicians last July, there was speculation that the facility would become a teaching hospital. Hall said that is not on her immediate agenda, but did not completely rule out the possibility for several years down the road.

For now, she said, "I want to take the hospital from being good to great. That is what I hope my experience can make happen."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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