New CMH leadership looks to the future

Dorothy Urschel. Photo contributed 

HUDSON — Dorothy Urschel took the helm at Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) on January 1, and is now looking to implement her vision for the future of the organization.

Dr. Urschel, a doctorally prepared acute care and family nurse practitioner who was named president and CEO of Columbia Memorial Health, also holds a master’s degree in Business Administration and has held clinical, administrative and academic positions throughout her career.

“I started in critical care and was a thoracic surgery and heart surgery nurse practitioner for many years in western New York,” Dr. Urschel said. “I was also an educator at University of Buffalo and I still continue to do that for graduate nurse practitioners — I teach online and I quite enjoy it. I would never want to stop doing that — it has always provided me with some balance and I really love it.”

Dr. Urschel has held academic positions at the University of Buffalo and Daemen University, and has performed research and worked in clinical settings. Prior to being named to head up CMH, she was vice president of operations and chief nursing officer at Albany Memorial Health, part of the St. Peter’s Health Partners system, where she was also vice president of cardiac and vascular surgery.

She first joined CMH in 2019 as chief operating officer, and in October of 2022 was selected to become the president and CEO in the new year.

“I had some progressive leadership roles,” Dr. Urschel said.

She replaced former president and CEO Jay Cahalan, who retired at the end of 2022. Mr. Cahalan was chief operating officer for CMH for many years before being named president and chief executive officer. He was with the hospital for about 22 years.

“Jay [Cahalan] really focused on outpatient expansion like primary care and multi-specialties, so that really is already expanded. Obviously we want to sustain what he has already expanded upon and meet the demands of the current day post-pandemic, and make sure we can sustain the volume on the outpatient sites,” Dr. Urschel said.

“For me, I will look to develop centers of excellence,” Dr. Urschel said. “We provide a lot of great care. My centers of excellence will revolve around breast health, women’s health and uro-gynecology, orthopedics, pain [management], gastroenterology and, of course, primary care.”

CMH currently has 40 care centers scattered around Columbia and Greene counties, and Dr. Urschel plans to focus on expanding and building on current strengths.

“My perspective of a center of excellence is a group of clinicians with a shared vision and focus, and they have the expertise to support and move forward these practices and become known as centers of excellence,” she said. “While we do these things already, we want to make them bigger and broader and have world-class performance and value.”

Developing medical centers of excellence is Dr. Urschel’s top priority as she takes the helm at CMH, and second on her list of priorities is community outreach.

“Community outreach will be very big for us,” she said. “Our job now is to continue to work to evolve and meet the community’s needs. I would like to see a lot more expansion into the community for community outreach, educational programs, and to be more embedded in the community.”

In addition to the main hospital campus in Hudson, CMH also owns the Greene Medical Arts building in Catskill, as well as 40 other practices in Catskill, Cairo, Coxsackie, Windham, Valatie, Chatham, Copake and Red Hook, among others.

CMH has been dealing with staffing shortages among its medical personnel, a problem facing many hospitals nationwide. The shortage has led to backlogs in the Emergency Department and other areas of the hospital.

Training and recruitment will be key to addressing the issue, as well as pursuing federal assistance to rebuild the workforce, some of which was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Urschel said.

“Ultimately we need more professionals entering the pipeline,” she said. “That means building more capacity for training programs for nurses, radiology technicians, and for skilled physicians.”

Providing health care in a rural setting offers its own benefits and challenges, but one that Dr. Urschel said she is looking forward to.

“Patients come first and I really believe that health care is holistic and what we provide here, especially as a rural community hospital, has so much benefit to the communities that we serve across Greene and Columbia counties,” Dr. Urschel said.

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