May 26, 2006

Medical Center fixture Urmy stepping down

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Norman Urmy will leave his post as executive vice president for Clinical Affairs at the end of June.
Photo by Dana Johnson

Medical Center fixture Urmy stepping down

Norman Urmy, who over the past 24 years has led Vanderbilt University Hospital and its clinical enterprise successfully through an ever-changing landscape of health care changes, is stepping down.

Urmy was 38 when he was named director of VUH in 1982. In some ways he and the hospital, which had opened in its current location only two years before, have grown up together.

Now executive vice president for Clinical Affairs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Urmy will step down June 30. He will spend time this summer with his wife, Carole, and four children, fishing, hiking and relaxing at the home they've built in Colorado, then will return to Vanderbilt in October to work with Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, in a supporting staff role that will focus on key strategic initiatives.

When Urmy came to VUMC from New York University in 1982, a headline in the now-defunct Nashville Banner called him a “cost-cutting pioneer.” During his 13-year tenure at NYU he was vice president and administrator of the school's Medical Center, where he coordinated an extensive hospital renovation project and directed the hospital's cooperative care center, which was a new model for cost-effective delivery of acute hospital care.

In 1998, after leading VUH for 16 years, Urmy stepped easily into his current role, reporting directly to Jacobson and serving as chief administrative officer for the clinical programs of VUMC, including oversight of not only VUH, but the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, the Psychiatric Hospital at Vanderbilt and the Vanderbilt-Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital.

He temporarily stepped back into the hospital director's role when it was vacated by Mark Penkhus in 2002, and did both jobs for three years until Larry Goldberg became executive director and CEO of VUH in 2005.

Urmy said he began planning to relinquish his current role about four years ago, and once Goldberg was on board, decided to stay one more year.

“Our Medical Center and clinical enterprise are thriving and in the best shape of my time at Vanderbilt,” Urmy said. “If there's going to be a transition, now is the time to do it.”

After calling some of his closest friends and colleagues on Tuesday and Wednesday, he sent an e-mail to various Vanderbilt leaders on Wednesday.

“What better time to pass the baton,” Urmy wrote. “While I am relinquishing my role and responsibilities as E.V.P. I am going to stay involved, and Dr. Jacobson and I are discussing a supporting role that I could play. I am excited about that and am looking forward to working with you in that role.”

Jacobson said Urmy's accomplishments at VUMC can't be underestimated. “Norman's contributions to Vanderbilt are widespread. I can't think of one aspect of this Medical Center that hasn't been touched by his skilled hands or changed for the better by his leadership. From making tough calls about resources to helping pioneer clinical pathways, he has been a calming presence in this ever-changing world of health care. We're lucky Norman came our way.”

In Urmy's e-mail, he said his time at Vanderbilt has been “amazing.”

“I feel very fortunate to have been at Vanderbilt for the past 24 years and to have participated in rebuilding VUMC into one of the nation's best medical centers,” he wrote.

“It's been a real team effort, and I've been blessed to have worked with what I consider the best management team in America.”

Urmy has not only had an impact on VUMC, but also the local and national health care scene.

In 2004 the Tennessee Hospital Association recognized him with one of its top honors, the Meritorious Service Award for Chief Executive Officer. The award is presented to a hospital chief executive who has demonstrated leadership and exemplary service to the health care field.

“Norman has been a mentor and an excellent partner in all of our patient care initiatives,” said Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, M.S.N., who was associate director of Surgical Nursing when Urmy came to Vanderbilt and has worked closely with him since.

“He has supported innovation in all of our clinical and administrative efforts. As I have progressed in my role here, he has advised, counseled, challenged and held me accountable. He has been wonderful in his support, not only of me, but of patient care and nursing at Vanderbilt.”

Edward Nelson, of Nelson Capital Corp., chairman of the Medical Center Board and a longtime member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, said Urmy has a knack for making the right decision.

"Norman is probably one of the most successful health care professionals in the country," Nelson said. “He has added so much strength to the growth of the Medical Center.

“He has made the right decisions to lower expenses when necessary, and has also known when to engage in new ventures."

Urmy, who is also well known at VUMC for his role as lead guitarist in the band he co-founded, “Soul Incision,” plans to stay with the group once he returns from Colorado.

“I'm going to be around for awhile,” he said.