After 30 years in the Lynchburg health community, George Dawson is stepping down.
The President and CEO of Centra announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of 2011.
Dawson came to Lynchburg in 1980 as executive director of Virginia Baptist Hospital, which merged with Lynchburg General Hospital in 1986 to form Centra. Dawson was selected to lead the new venture and has remained at the top post ever since.
Centra officials cite Dawson as a visionary leader that helped the organization grow from two community hospitals to the nationally recognized health care provider it is today.
Dawson is also credited with starting the Centra Foundation, a fundraising arm that supports training and education for doctors and nurses along with money for improvements to Centra facilities.
A national search is underway to find Dawson's replacement. Centra officials hope to announce a successor by this summer.
Here is the full news release:
After three decades of visionary leadership, Centra president and CEO George W. Dawson announced his retirement Tuesday. He expects to retire by the end of 2011.
Dawson led the transformation of Centra from two community hospitals to a major healthcare system nationally recognized for quality and safety. Today, nonprofit Centra has 6,000 employees, a medical staff of more than 400, Lynchburg General, Virginia Baptist and Southside Community hospitals, health and rehabilitation centers, a cancer center and physician practices serving an area from Bedford to Farmville and from Nelson County to Danville. In addition, Centra’s services include residential and outpatient mental health facilities, home health and hospice programs, mammography centers, a sleep disorders center and a center for wound care and hyperbaric medicine.
Centra has had tremendous growth in its regional service area, earned dozens of national awards for quality, service, safety and patient satisfaction, and is known for its efficiency and financial stability.
While Dawson is proud of these accomplishments, he is quick to credit the results to a great team. “I’ve been privileged to work with so many talented and caring Centra employees and great doctors,” he said.
“Centra’s top notch executives and dedicated community Board of Directors have focused on excellent patient care for the entire region. We all have a lot of pride in what we do and accomplish together.”
“All of us who live in the communities served by Centra owe George Dawson a tremendous debt of gratitude. He has devoted a big part of his life to Centra and gaining the quality of care worthy of national rankings,” said Ken White, chair of the Centra Board of Directors. “Quality of care and patient service are the hallmarks of his leadership.
“Unfortunately for our region, he wants to retire. For several years he has told us this day would come, but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear. Not only is everyone at Centra in Lynchburg and Farmville losing his leadership, but also his day to day friendship as a colleague.”
“I will miss my Centra job, but this year is the right time for this transition,” Dawson said. “More than a year ago, Rosemary and I decided that 2011 would be the year we would begin to focus more of our time on each other and on our other deep interests. I must admit, in my current role, I am not very good at the ‘work/life balance’ challenge.
"I shared our decision with the Centra board and they began the important task of succession planning. Centra is blessed to have a board of experienced regional leaders and I applaud them for their thoughtful and consistent leadership of Centra’s regional healthcare mission.”
White said the Centra board has appointed a search committee and has engaged a nationally recognized executive search firm to identify candidates as Dawson’s successor. He expects the board to make its decision on a new CEO as early as this summer. Current Centra executives who express an interest will be considered as well as candidates from across the country.
“It is natural, I think, for people to perhaps wonder whether there will be a change in our direction as we transition to new leadership. The answer to that is ‘no.’ I want to make it clear that the Centra board remains strongly committed to the strategy of a locally governed, nonprofit integrated healthcare system providing a broad range of healthcare services to central and southside Virginia,” White said.