When Amy Schafrann recruited Mark Gudis for the Norwalk Hospital board of directors, it seemed like a good fit.
The senior investment professional had spent much of his career examining healthcare companies. His wife MaryGrace was already on the hospital’s foundation board.
He found the work fascinating. “The landscape is changing so rapidly,” he says. “But people will always get sick. Working on the board is all about seeing what we can do to make things better for everyone.”
Then Gudis himself got sick.
A health scare in early 2013 caused him to reflect on what was most important in his life.
“It was humbling and scary,” he says. “But it made me a better person. I’m more focused now on doing things that benefit others.”
Which is why Gudis has just been named chairman of the Norwalk Hospital Association board of directors. And Schafrann — who recruited him years ago — is the new vice chair. Both are longtime Westporters.
Gudis has 4 goals for the hospital. He wants to engage all 1,400 employees, making sure they’re growing in their jobs and satisfied with their work; ensure that the hospital’s 425 physicians get whatever they need to serve patients; continue to enhance and innovate the hospital’s work in the community, and make continuous improvement in safety and security.
For 125 years, Norwalk Hospital has been a part of the local community. But it’s also moved forward, extending its reach and resources.
In October, the hospital partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. That means accelerated access to the latest treatments — and Sloan Kettering’s renowned physicians — right here at home.
The hospital is also allied with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center — which means improved inpatient medical care for kids.
And Norwalk Hospital is collaborating with Northwell Health, the large New York provider, to share best practices and provide better buying power.
“So a community hospital can have all the resources of a large metropolitan hospital,” Gudis explains.
Last year, Norwalk Hospital did 10,000 surgeries, and treated 50,000 emergency room patients.
“We’ve done a good job,” Gudis notes. “The Norwalk Hospital of 10 years ago is not the Norwalk Hospital of today — or tomorrow. It’s very exciting.”
He looks forward to working with Schafrann. The 1972 graduate of Staples High School — who spent 20 years as a Yankelovich managing partner, and now runs a college consulting firm — says that for many years she took the hospital for granted.
Twenty-eight years ago, she went into labor at 26 weeks. Her daughter Sara was born — weighing just 1.5 pounds.
“It was a very scary time,” Schafrann says. She and her husband Richard grew to appreciate the neonatal intensive care unit.
After 3 months of “incredible care,” Sara went home. She weighed 5 pounds.
Her story ends happily. A few months ago, several doctors and nurses attended Sara’s wedding. She earns her doctorate in clinical and social psychology this May, and will work with children with learning disabilities and special needs.
“We wanted to give back to the hospital that gave us our wonderful daughter,” Schafrann says. At first, she and her husband made financial donations to the unit.
Several years ago, she was asked to join the Foundation board. Now she’s vice chair of the full board.
Schafrann is proud of the Circle of Caring/Grateful Patients program she founded. It encourages notes of appreciation to doctors, nurses, aides, meal deliverers, technicians — anyone who made a paitent’s stay easier or better.
While co-chair of the Whittingham Cancer Center Walk/Run — with fellow Westporter Tammy Zelkowitz — Schafrann recruited local students to form teams. She’ll continue to search for ways to keep teenagers involved in the hospital.
Her goal on the board is “to help deliver high-quality care. With all the financial pressures, many local hospitals have disappeared. Through our network, with economies of scale and thanks to our donors, we’ll continue to provide advanced emergency care, state-of-the-art cancer treatment, and community health and wellness.”