|Rodger Baker served as CEO of Fauquier Health for 39 years.|
Baker is well known in the local community and in the region at least partly because of his longevity, but Baker’s legacy was solidified when he took a leap of faith in 1999. The hospital was scheduled for an expansion and renovation at that time, and Baker seized the opportunity to transform the health system into a truly patient-centered care facility. He led the health system to adopt the Planetree philosophy, an innovative model to place the patient at the center of all healthcare decisions. It was a far cry from the conveyor-belt model of healthcare employed by hospitals at the time. Fauquier Hospital was named a Planetree-Designated Hospital in 2007, one of only five Planetree-designated facilities in the country.
Christy Connolly, former vice president of Strategic Services for Fauquier Hospital and current CEO of the PATH Foundation, remembered, “Rodger convinced the board and physicians to bring Planetree to Fauquier Hospital. Rodger carefully laid out the holistic approach to care and the components of Planetree and asked them to consider what's not to like about this type of care delivery. Planetree and the patient-centered care philosophy changed the face of Fauquier Hospital and the entire health system.”
The health system’s deep commitment to this transformation required not only vision and funds, it demanded a complete culture change. Patient-centered care required physical changes – like building single rooms with beds for family members; spiritual changes – like building a chapel on site and incorporating art and music into the design throughout the hospital; and philosophical changes – inspiring employees to focus on the patient, not the illness.
Those changes started at the top. Amy Powers, Planetree coordinator, said, “Rodger Baker’s vision to align with Planetree created a patient-centered culture at Fauquier Health long before patient-centered care became the buzzword that it is today. He often shares the story of when he first heard about it and made it his mission to bring the practice to Fauquier Health. From the very beginning, he worked tirelessly alongside employees to make the changes necessary to become a designated facility, including facilitating employee retreats. When healthcare industry changes began emphasizing the importance of patient-centered care, Rodger Baker’s vision positioned Fauquier Health ahead of the curve, providing compassionate care individualized to the needs of each person. Over the years, Rodger Baker has not wavered on his commitment to patient-centered care.”
Baker has led the health system in its transformation from a small community hospital to a 97-bed, state-of-the-art facility with a 33-bed emergency department and a nursing home/rehabilitation facility, assisted living facility, wound healing center, wellness center and multi-disciplinary physician practice.
As all healthcare across the country began to go through a major upheaval in the early 2000s, the board of directors at Fauquier Hospital began to plan for the future, to make sure the health system would be able to serve patients for decades to come. After years of educating themselves about the healthcare landscape, the board decided in October of 2013 to partner with LifePoint Health, a large health system equipped to weather the storms that were beginning to wreak havoc on independent hospitals.
Baker’s leadership through the transition was steady and reassuring. His goal was to benefit from LifePoint’s clinical and financial resources while maintaining the hospital’s identity and patient-centered care philosophy. He said, “Partnering with LifePoint has allowed us to make major investments in technology and to take significant steps to improve clinical outcomes. Our staff has been great about absorbing new education and developing updated processes to better serve our patients. Our goal was to be able to continue to grow and adapt, while maintaining our community hospital identity. I think we’ve been able to do that.”
Sandra Brown, longtime volunteer and leader of the Fauquier Hospital Auxiliary, has known Baker for decades. “I think Rodger can best be described as the face of Fauquier Hospital. He has been tireless in his quest to see that the Fauquier Health system grew over the years to meet the health needs of Fauquier County and surrounding areas. He was and continues to be a positive visionary example of leadership. He is never content with the status quo.
“On a personal level -- as a board member of the Auxiliary, I have always known that Rodger was available to listen to our concerns as well as our plans for the future. We all are really going to miss having him around.”
Connolly added, “As we all know, there's a lot that needs to be fixed in healthcare. I recall one day when I was lamenting about how the problems were just too big to impact. Rodger quickly reminded me that we can't change the world, but we can do everything we can to affect our own little microcosm. As a selfless and compassionate leader, Rodger has done just that in our community. I was privileged to work with and learn from him.”
Rob Marino, director of the Fauquier Free Clinic, said, “I can't think of anyone who has made a bigger impact on local health care, and therefore on the health of our local community members. Rodger has always been able to balance the needs of the patients with the clinical team and bring people together to solve problems and make improvements. He is terrific at making complicated problems seem simple. When the Free Clinic came asking for help, he always found a way to say ‘yes.’
“When the Free Clinic moved into our big new space last year, Rodger came and celebrated with us. There was a journalist doing on-camera interviews, and when I watched them later, what jumped out to me was that Rodger was able to explain why charity health care is important and what the Free Clinic contributes to the region really well. I wished that I had been able to articulate our mission like he did, and that's supposed to be my job!”
Board member Marshall Doeller said, “Rodger Baker's commitment to Fauquier Hospital over the past 30-plus decades has led to a wonderful example of what a hospital should be in this day and age. He has managed to do this while trying to see that every employee has a path to grow and excel in their field and while overseeing the building a state-of-the-art facility with some of the most qualified physicians and staff in the area. He will be missed.”
Longtime board member Anne Hall said, “I believe, and have believed for many years, that Rodger Baker has been the one steady constant in the life of Fauquier Hospital. He has seen the hospital through the many years of change ... times that were tight and stressful, times that were good and exciting.
“Rodger has been there more than anyone else. Employees and staff have come and gone, physicians, technicians, assistants have come and gone, the physical plant has changed more than once, re-imbursement has changed, the Board of Trustees has changed more than once -- in fact several times -- but, Rodger was there, helping to guide us through all the changes.
“He, very quietly, and often with a touch of humor, has been the force that has guided Fauquier Hospital along a very successful path. That hospital on the hill is, in my estimation, a wonderful testament to the dedication, devotion and hard work of Rodger Baker, a very fine leader who will be missed by many.”