Steven Snelgrove, the new president of Howard County General Hospital, isn't intimidated by the changing landscape of health care or the challenges it presents for hospitals.
He's convinced that his new community is uniquely equipped to handle whatever comes along.
"Health care has evolved. No longer does a hospital administrator only worry about what happens in the four walls of the hospital," said the 56-year-old, who previously served as president and CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health System's two community hospitals in North Carolina before accepting the Howard position on Feb. 4.
"Our focus isn't just on episodic care anymore; it's really on partnerships in the community and creating an environment where people engage in personal responsibility, wellness and disease prevention. ... To really create a healthy community, that's a challenge and one of the things that attracted me to Howard County. If anyone can do it in the United States, Howard County ought to be able to do it."
Snelgrove called Howard County "a community of resources," and one that is ahead of the curve when it comes to preventive health, wellness and community involvement. Among the resources Snelgrove highlighted are organizations such as the Columbia Association, a community services organization that manages fitness and wellness facilities and activities, and the Horizon Foundation, a Columbia nonprofit dedicated to improving health and wellness.
"There's a lot going well here, we just want to take it to the next level and be an example for other communities to follow," he said.
Part of that will be leveraging the relationship with Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, although Snelgrove said the real key to improving overall health starts with the community.
Snelgrove said the hospital has to shift its model of patient care through outreach. He said it's vital that, while inside the hospital, patients and their families are involved in the planning of a patient's care, and that hospitals are more accountable than ever for following through on treatment.
"We recognize our care doesn't end when you leave the hospital," Snelgrove said. "The government, in their wisdom, is saying you need to be responsible, not just for the episode of care, but the 30 to 90 days post-discharge as well. Those are the rules we abide by, and that's the way we have to design our systems of care."
Part of that design, Snelgrove said, will be ramping up community partnerships.
"Where we come from, we have a lot of knowledge about disease and how to diagnose disease and treat disease ... with that knowledge comes what caused the disease in the first place," he said. "So if we are at the leadership table with the Columbia Association, the Horizon Foundation and others, then you begin to develop a mosaic that's coordinated. You can manage more effectively. A lot of people talk about this; very few pull it off. I think Howard County is uniquely positioned to pull this off."
Beverly White-Seals, a former chairwoman of the hospital's board of trustees, and president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Howard County, said Snelgrove's energy and effort to galvanize more partnership is welcome.
"We have a lot of nonprofits, but that doesn't mean we are all getting together to address key community needs," said White-Seals, whose foundation supports the more than 1,000 nonprofits in the county.
White-Seals said Snelgrove is taking the right approach to build on the foundation of community outreach created by his predecessor, Vic Broccolino, who served as president for 24 years and is credited with making the hospital into a major community partner.
"His vision to make those ties stronger is impressive," she said. "He seems to have a lot of energy and interest in partnering with the community."
Snelgrove's career in health care began in the late 1970s when, as an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut, he got a summer internship as a "retractor holder" at nearby Hartford Hospital.
The job, which consisted of assisting surgeons in the operating room, highlights the diverse health care experience Snelgrove brings to his new position. Since his first step into the health care world, he has managed operating rooms, spearheaded hospital expansion projects, served as chief operating officer and directed a department of human resources in hospitals in Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
The bulk of his nearly 40 years in health care has come at Wake Forest, where he most recently served as president and CEO of its two community hospitals. Before that, Snelgrove worked for the system's larger medical facilities, which is a departure from the community hospital setting at Howard County General.
"Your experiences all build upon themselves," Snelgrove said. "So I have a lot of experience in an academic environment and a couple years' experience in a community hospital setting, which turned out to be some of the experience and characteristics they were looking for."
Drew Hancock, the president of a construction company who first worked with Snelgrove on the expansion and renovation of Wake Forest's facilities in Winston-Salem, said Snelgrove is "exceptionally qualified" to implement his community outreach strategy.
"Through the hospital, he has been very involved in breaking further ground in helping the community be healthier," Hancock said. "He's a real community asset, and he will roll up his sleeves and get involved in things that matter to the community."
Hancock added that Snelgrove "knows how to get things done," and that he's "envious" of Howard County residents.
Replacing 'Mr. Howard County'
"My impressions are I think we have somebody who is stepping into some very large shoes and is ready for the task of making his own place in the community," said Hunt, who had Snelgrove serve as a keynote speaker for the organization's March luncheon.
Hunt said his willingness to engage the community should make for a smooth transition, but that the most important thing for Snelgrove is to carve out his own niche. Hunt recalls a slide in Snelgrove's presentation that showed a picture of Broccolino.
"He said, 'I'm not him, and here's who I am and what I bring to the table,' " she said. "That's exactly what you need to do. He's Steve, and he needs to be judged on Steve."