When Jim Weadick speaks, his words are chosen with the precision of a lawyer and his eyes have the attentiveness of an administrator, but his spontaneous and boisterous laugh is one of his most defining characteristics.
During his 27 years as CEO of Newton Medical Center, Weadick used that combination of precision and personality to raise the status of the hospital and navigate through two decades of rapid growth.
Because of his leadership of the hospital, and his participation in several other community groups, Weadick received the prestigious for 2012 R.O. Arnold Award for lifetime community service at Thursday’s annual meeting of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.
“When he came here more than 25 years ago, the hospital was not in the best shape. He’s turned it completely around,” said friend Billy Fortson, who serves on the Newton Medical Center’s board of directors. “What makes him special is what he’s done for health care in this community. He has really been the face of healthcare for (27) years now and taken us into the 21st century in healthcare so to speak.”
Newton County has nearly tripled in population since 1984, the year hospital board Chairman Pete Knox recruited Weadick to Covington.
Weadick has responded by more than doubling staff to more than 800 employees and the size of the hospital to 285,000 square feet, while adding several services, including: cardiac catheterization, cardiac rehabilitation, CT scans, home health care, MRIs, neonatal intensive care, a pain clinic, a sleep lab, the Women’s Diagnostic Center and wound care.
Through all the hard work, Weadick’s sense of humor kept the atmosphere light, said hospital Chief Financial Officer Troy Brooks.
“The first thing that I remember about Jim from our interview 25-plus years ago was his laugh and sense of humor. We still share a lot of laughs and that keeps the job from becoming a grind for all of us around here,” Brooks said in an email. “He’s a smart man and he’s pushed this place and the employees forward a long, long way in 27 years. Personally, he has been as much a mentor to me as a boss. He has been great to work with and work for.”
Weadick was born in Pennsylvania, graduated with an accounting degree from the College of Santa Fe, served three years in the army’s medical service corps, including a one-year stint in Vietnam, and received a master’s degree in hospital administration from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
He then worked for Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, Tenn., before coming to Newton Medical. To top it off, he took night classes at Atlanta Law School to earn a law degree, because he felt he needed more legal knowledge to be a successful administrator.
Weadick first developed an interest in healthcare when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare act in 1965.
“There was so much discussion about the coverage and protection of seniors in America that had never been done, and also included in those discussions where are and what are the resources to make that a reality. I thought to myself that seems to be something I would enjoy a great deal,” Weadick said Friday.
“That exposure in the military on the medical end of it tended to reinforce more how much I liked the idea of working at a hospital in a management capacity.”
In addition to his work with the hospital, Weadick has been involved with the Newton County United Way, several chamber boards and committees, the local chapters of American Red Cross and American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and St. Pius Catholic Church
He has a passion for helping people, whether it was the disaster relief focus of the American Red Cross, or sponsoring cancer research, an effort dear to Weadick, a survivor of lymphoma.
“Since I was diagnosed in 2002, the improvement that have been made in research and that research that has come out and been made available at the community level, not just the university research level, has been absolutely significant. People survive today that received death sentences a number of yeas ago,” he said.
In addition to celebrating another year of surviving cancer, Weadick will be celebrating his 46th wedding anniversary with his wife, Gerri.
While Weadick was humbled by the award, he was proud of everyone at Newton Medical, directors, management, doctors, volunteers and the community supporters.
“What we’ve done here, all of us, with Newton Medical Center, receiving this recognition — although it was given to me it certainly is and was a team effort,” he said. “They truly have made being the CEO at this hospital an enjoyable job with lots of challenges, and challenges that people wanted, meet and accomplish…When you have an entire team like that pushing and pulling together you can accomplish significant things.”