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New Voice for Health Care

Mount Vernon and Alexandria hospitals add community health advocate.

Two years ago at Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland’s Town Meeting, citizens heard a rumor that Inova Mount Vernon Hospital was on the fast track to closure by Inova Health System.

That rumor triggered a firestorm within the residential enclaves bordered by the ever-evolving Route 1 corridor and the Potomac River. The citizens rallied to save their hospital.

Even though Inova Health System maintained that closure of IMVH was never an option, the local uprising, led by Hyland and his band of citizen and physician activists, ensured it would stay open.

Almost two years to the day that the first wave of disbelief surged across Mount Vernon District about the fate of the community hospital, a new voice for Inova Health System has appeared on the scene. He shares their belief that IMVH is “the crown jewel of this community.”

Rod Huebbers, IHS’s newly named executive vice president will oversee the general administration and development of both Inova Mount Vernon and Inova Alexandria hospitals. “I have a passion for community health,” he said during a recent interview at IMVH.

“We are the guardians of the community. I became intrigued with community health care because we, as a nation, are so low on the community health care scale. The U.S. ranks 25 on infant mortality and elderly longevity,” he said.

“Scandinavia is near the top. Why? Because they focus on preserving health. We focus on when a patient comes into the hospital,” Huebbers said. “Our real job should be to put ourselves out of business because we have increased the health of the community that much. It will never happen but we should keep striving.”

PRIOR TO JOINING IHS Huebbers served as the CEO of the Loudoun Hospital, an independent non-profit institution. “They had lost a ton of cash when I went there in 2000. And, more importantly, they had lost the confidence and respect of the community,” Huebbers said.

“Once we got it back on track and turned around financially we set up a fund to turn back a net two and a half percent in terms of community grants. The first year we gave a grant of $110,000 for prenatal care. And we formed a partnership with the Loudoun County Health Department,” he said.

Huebbers found that institution $28 million in the hole when he arrived. But the community was unaware of the situation, according to Huebbers.

“I went to all the various town councils throughout the county to tell them that the hospital had not told them what was going on,” he said. “That began the process of restoring their faith in their hospital.”

HUEBBERS’ ENTHUSIASM has already become contagious. “He is a breath of fresh air. Just what we needed,” said Hyland.

“He is very interested in listening to the needs of the community and their desires. I look forward to working with him,” he said.

That was echoed by cardiologist Dr. Cleveland Francis, chair of the IMVH Medical Affairs Council. “He is a bright and enthusiastic guy. His talents have been proven in Loudoun. If we can get that same enthusiasm and insightfulness at Mount Vernon Hospital it will be great,” Francis said.

George Barker, associate director, Health Systems Agency, Northern Virginia, and a member of the Southeastern Fairfax Health Planning Task Force, also views IMVH as “a strong community hospital with extraordinary services people outside the Mount Vernon area are not always aware of.”

He is very supportive of Huebbers’ focus on telling the IMVH story and increasing those capabilities. “I think it’s very good Rod is looking at expanding services and creating more awareness throughout the entire region of just what the hospital has to offer,” Barker said.

TRAINED AS a pharmacist, Huebbers received his degree from the University of Rhode Island and completed his clerkship at Brown University in 1977. “I spent most of my career between Rhode Island and Connecticut before coming here,” he said.

Huebbers entered the field of hospital administration in Connecticut and received his master’s in business administration from Bryant University in Rhode Island. “I have a real passion for community health,” he said. “This is a phenomenal community hospital. But, it also has some of the best capabilities in the world, particularly in the specialty of joint replacement and therapy. It is essential that we tell the world,” Huebbers said.