One-on-one with Pat Martin of Fisher-Titus on its 50th

Just call him Pat. A Norwalk native who enjoys attending Mick Jagger concerts, Pat Martin is the president and chief executiv
May 24, 2010


Just call him Pat.

A Norwalk native who enjoys attending Mick Jagger concerts, Pat Martin is the president and chief executive officer for Fisher-Titus Medical Center -- a position he's held for almost 10 years.

Martin, 56, said his dream was always to return to Fisher-Titus. He first started working at the hospital in 1972 as an administrative assistant. He continued to work at Fisher-Titus for the next two years.

Martin left Norwalk to attend Otterbein College in Westerville. He graduated in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in business administration and economics. Martin decided to continue his education on the East Coast and received his master's degree from George Washington University.

He continued to work jobs related to the medical field. In 1974, Martin worked as a research assistant for a firm in Maryland, where he conducted patient origin studies and physician activity studies for clients, among other things. He went on to work at George Washington University Medical Center as an administrative resident to the dean for administrative affairs and as the administrator of the medical center.

In 1976, Martin returned to Fisher-Titus as an assistant administrator.

The dream had come true.

Martin can be described as down-to-earth, soft-spoken and genuine. He gets emotional when he talks about his late mother and perks up when Mick Jagger is mentioned. He is involved with several community organizations including the Rotary Club of Norwalk, Stein Hospice and the Norwalk Area United Fund.

Martin lives in Norwalk with his wife, Susan. The couple has a 26-year-old son, P.J., who lives in Charlotte, N.C.

Today Martin and the hospital's community celebrate the hospital's 50th anniversary.

Q: Tell us Pat, what is up with the new expansion, and how will it enhance services?

A: Phase four is the newest project we have, which is our heart and vascular center. We initiated the project a little over 18 months ago with the renovation of the existing space and the addition of Dr. Barry Zadeh, who is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon that we and Bellevue (Hospital) jointly recruited. We wanted to add the cardiovascular services, as did Bellevue. With adding him and his capability here ... we can start taking cardiovascular cases and treating the cardiovascular and thoracic cases that we historically couldn't do because of non-availability of a particular specialist. At the same time, we started a project called the cardiovascular service line, where we wanted to expand the services in the cardiology side of the business. Historically, we had limited scope of cardiology services because of the facility. With the addition of the cardiovascular lab -- and designing it in such a way and getting it approved by the state of Ohio that could do both vascular cases as well as diagnostic cardiac catheterizations -- it allowed us then, this July, to start offering diagnostic cardiac caths. Over this less-than-12-month period of time, we added thoracic and cardiovascular services and endovascular services and diagnostic cardiac caths. Historically, patients, for any of those services, needed to leave the area to get service. Looking at Bellevue and Norwalk together, it's a pretty substantial market area, and that was one of the nice things about working with Bellevue in this particular case to jointly recruit Dr. Zadeh to our community.

Q: What is a good day on the job like for you?

A: The crises that come up can be resolved relatively quickly, and we can get answers so we don't have to put things off or put physicians or employees off -- addressing their needs or questions that come up. Most days start at 7 (a.m.) for me. Most of our meetings here start at 7 (a.m.). It's pretty difficult for me to be in the office before then. One thing about it is you never know what's going to happen. That's one of the things I like about it -- that's one of the things I don't like about it. (Laughs). As I'm getting older, I like it less than I used to. We're about people. We're a service industry. Not unlike a restaurant, a gas station or something else. People make choices where they go for services. It's about how you're treated -- how you're taken care of. If somebody can do a good job taking care of your person or your car ... but if missed something in the interaction with the staff that's doing it, you're not going to go back there again. You have different choices. This area has a plethora of good health care facilities for people to choose from. That's one of the nice things about it. It's also one of the things that keeps all of us working hard to provide good, quality services.

Q: Describe a difficult day.

A: That's a regular day (laughs). When things happen that you can't react to or give an answer to right away, or something happens that's out of your control. It may have a consequence on a patient or an employee. We like to be rapid solvers of issues or problems. If it takes some time to put something together or it takes longer to get a piece of equipment ... because of a backorder ... or if we can't get something that allows us to take care of a patient, we, subsequently, in their best interest, send them someplace else. Those aren't good days. Sometimes when we have people leave the family. There are employees who have been here for a period of time who decide to go somewhere else to advance their career because they couldn't get that supervisory position, but they've been here for 10 or 12 years. In order for this advancement, they have to go someplace else. Those are sad days. Many of our employees have been here for a long time. One nice thing about a community hospital of our size -- there's a tremendous amount of community. Many of employees have been here their entire career. Probably six or seven or more of our employees have been here more than 25 years. We literally have grown up in the business.

Q: In the first 50 years, what has been the most important accomplishment for Fisher-Titus?

A: Being able to continue to provide our community with up-to-date, technologically-advanced quality services. It isn't one item, it's a continuous spectrum. Going back 50 years, there were no intensive care units. There wasn't monitoring equipment as we know today. Diagnostic tools ... they were as good as they could have been at that point. By today's standards, even in the last 20 years, they were almost ... archaic. They're in museums. They were state-of-the art here in 1957. That's one of the uniquenesses of Fisher-Titus -- being able to keep up and bring the technology ... the heart and vascular capability to a community hospital, which is unheard of around the country.

Q: What will be the most important accomplishment in the next 50 years?

A: Living to see it (laughs). I think continuing the same, and that is to be able to provide and allow our community members to have quality health care of a sophisticated, safe nature available to them here so they don't have to travel distances to get it. People who are sick don't like to go someplace they don't have to. Quality care close to home is very, very important. Our employees don't work at A hospital -- they work at THE hospital. You're cared for by your friends and neighbors, and there's that little extra touch. It's nice having the sophistication of a Cleveland Clinic, or University of Toledo, or (University of Michigan) that has world-class services. For care that can be done in a better environment, close to home, by people that care about you more than just being a patient ... there's a lot to that. That's part of our culture and our personality. We're very committed throughout the organization, whether it's a housekeeper or a maintenance person or an intensive care unit nurse.

Q: How long is too long to wait in the emergency room to see a doctor?

A: Any time. It depends on what you're there for. Our objective is to have patients cared for in under 30 minutes -- be seen by a physician in under 30 minutes. It's not a written rule, but it's something we've put in place. We're working closer to meeting that. We do meet it a majority of the time, but we aren't there 100 percent of the time. If it's my finger that's bleeding, it's a lot more important to me than your finger or your arm that's bleeding. If it's my child, all bets are off. He is the most important thing in our life. Any wait is too long. One of the challenges in the health-care business ... we don't know how many people are going to come to our emergency room for care. It could be five. It could be 60. You can't staff to care for 60 and have five show up on a regular basis and stay in business. You have to work at the levels and try and be flexible with scheduling -- not only of the support staff, but of the physicians. If it's me, it's too long. We want to exceed patients' expectations.

Q: If you could change one thing concerning how health care is delivered, what would it be?

A: I would have people do more in preventative care and take advantage of the services and capabilities that are there. This business was built in the 1960s with the New Frontier (and) Lyndon Johnson. Medicare and Medicaid took care of the masses. We're built around fixing things. If you eat right, exercise, and are lucky with the gene pool you got from your parents -- and if you're not, with some medications and proper prevention -- you won't have to worry about whether there's open-heart surgery program in the area that can take care of you or if your vessel can be stinted. It's sad to see the extent of obesity in our kids. People have become less physically active outside and more computer based -- Game Boys. Nobody had a Game Boy when I was growing up. Our Game Boy was a football and a basketball and a baseball glove. That's what you did. There weren't any computer games to play, but now there is. There are benefits to those things, but there's also some risks. Just like anything else in life, you need good balance. Focus more on prevention. We have a lot of programs where we do that, because we are very committed in trying to meet the needs of our community ahead of time to avoid the reactionary process.

Q: In your mind, what do you consider the greatest advancement in health-care services?

A: The diagnostic capabilities that are now available. The ability to see inside the vessels of the heart, for example. To see the body structure you never could see before. In my career, the diagnostic capabilities -- images now with a CT scanner could only be seen before by autopsy or by literally opening you up. It's so amazing. It gets you wondering, how did physicians do it before? MRI technology and the non-invasive things. Ultrasounds and those sort of things -- you can literally see the expression on a baby's face in utero. You can't tell what color their eyes are, but you can see their expressions change. It's all new technology in my career. It's scary in a sense that, where are we going to be in another 20 years, and how far can we go? The capability and the availability of antibiotics to kill things -- to stop infections. It's also one of the curses. Exposure to antibiotics over time -- you build up more resistance. The bugs that are growing now are much stronger than they used to be. There have been so many advancements in the last several years, it's tough to name one.

Q: How has the shortage of nursing and other health-care related fields impacted Fisher-Titus, and what is being done to address this?

A: One of the things that makes Fisher-Titus successful is the team of people that we have. Fisher-Titus is very fortunate. Our vacancy rate is less than 2 percent. Part of that is because we put some things in place 8 to 10 years ago. We saw that there were people who wanted to become nurses, but they couldn't. In some cases, it was because they didn't have money. What we did was create a scholarship program, not for employees, but for people in the community. If you want to become a nurse, a radiology technologist, a lab tech ... we will provide a scholarship to an individual who is accepted to a school and we will pay for their tuition to go to school. We take the money issue off the table. For every year of tuition we pay for, they have an obligation to work for us for one year. Then, when they come to work, they get paid the same as anybody. We basically refer to it as ... "we grow our own." We have people coming up through the pipeline on a continuous basis that are filling those positions. That's why are vacancy rate is so low. This is something we put together far before the legislation -- federal or state -- was put together to fund that. We, frankly, don't have a shortage. We never used an agency nurse to care for a patient at Fisher-Titus. It's worked out well for us. Other people are emulating that program now.

Q: Tell us about a moment in your life that had a dramatic impact on who you are today.

A: Probably one of the reasons why I'm in the business I am is because of something that happened here. My mother was diagnosed as a terminal cancer patient here, and it was before intensive care units. I grew up on a farm. My father couldn't meet the visiting requirements -- within the hours. The fellow who was in this office learned about what was going on. He made arrangements to move the patients out into the next room and set up a bed in the room for my dad so he could spend time with her. ... There were private duty nurses around the clock because she wasn't supposed to live. He did that. That had a big impact on me. That's why I was interested in health care. I don't like blood ... I was never going to be a doctor. He had an influence on our lives, and he wasn't a doctor. He's still alive today. It's Bill Slabodnik. He was the first person outside of my family that had an influence of some career for some farm kid from the Collins area to do something.

Getting to know Pat

Q: Rock or Bach?

A: It'd be rock. Beach Boys. Chicago. Bruce Springsteen. Mick Jagger.

Q: Indians or Browns?

A: Indians.

Q: What CD is currently playing in your car CD player?

A: I listen to the radio. Bob and Tom in the morning. Local news on WLKR (95.3).

Q: What was your first job?

A: I worked for the Huron County Highway Department ... on the sandblast crew. I was 18. It was a dirty job.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Pasta. Marinara. Red sauces.

Q: What was the last book you read?

A: James Patterson's "You've been warned."