Moving Day

Published 11:03 am Monday, October 3, 2016

AHOSKIE – No one will notice anything different this morning (Saturday) here at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

Doctors, nurses, and other staff members will treat this as any other day at the hospital by attending to patients. Visitors will come and go after dropping by to check on a family member, friend or neighbor.

However, significant change has occurred as the medical facility has bid farewell to its first-ever female president.

Sue Lassiter has opted to accept another job within the Vidant organization. Up until Friday (Sept. 30), she had served as RCH president since 1997.

Lassiter joined Vidant RCH in 1985 as Director of Nursing and was promoted to president in 1997.

Lassiter joined Vidant RCH in 1985 as Director of Nursing and was promoted to president in 1997.

She will become Administrator of Regional Behavioral Health Services for Vidant Health System. Lassiter’s new job will keep her in Ahoskie as she will have an office at Northside Behavioral Health, but she will travel from there to other Vidant locations that offer this service – Edgecombe (Tarboro), Chowan/Bertie (Edenton and Windsor), Beaufort (Washington) and Duplin (Kenansville).

“I’m not moving; I will still live in Ahoskie and my home base will be on the Northside campus,” said Lassiter.

Lassiter said the new challenge that awaits her was due to Vidant’s desire to expand their behavioral health line and better meet the needs of eastern North Carolina.

“They’ve been working to put a team together to launch and maintain this expansion,” Lassiter remarked. “The leader of that team felt the time was right to put an individual in place to devote full-time attention to this regional concept.”

Lassiter stressed that Vidant has offered behavioral health services for decades. What’s different now, she said, is bringing those services together in a more efficient way.

“It’s all about the full continuum of care,” she said. “You figure out how to get those patients who need that type of care to the places that offer behavioral health. It’s expanding services by improving the care to folks in eastern North Carolina that have mental illness or behavioral health diagnosis.”

Lassiter said the regional administrative role she is taking is new to Vidant.

“Those now leading the efforts at the five behavioral health locations for Vidant will remain; my job as a regional administrator is one of support for them; help move forward the work; help make improvements; and help expand services so we can do a better job of providing care for behavioral health patients,” she noted.

“It’s exiting that Vidant is putting focus and investing resources towards improving the care of the behavioral health population; one in every four people have a diagnosable condition and probably are not receiving treatment,” Lassiter stressed.

The challenge of the career change is something that Lassiter is looking forward to tackling.

“I get excited about work where I can build and develop things and that’s exactly what this new work will be,” she said.

“I can see us expanding these services,” Lassiter continued. “In addition to our in-patient beds and out-patient ambulatory practices, there will be discussions about child adolescent beds that are so badly needed here in eastern North Carolina. There will be discussions about how do we take better care of those suffering from substance abuse. And how do we integrate behavioral health into primary care, that’s another item to be discussed.”

Lassiter also addressed the lack of psychiatrists in the 29 counties served by Vidant Health.

“Tele-psychiatry is needed; that brings access to those needing a psychiatrist or therapist via our tele-medicine unit where they don’t have to travel outside their county of residence,” Lassiter noted. “We work closely to partner with Trillium Health in this area.”

Lassiter can bank on the experience gained through 20 years of serving as the Vidant RCH president to help guide her in this new role.

“I think that the relationships, the collaboration, the team building I’ve done in the role of president of this hospital can carry over to this behavioral health work,” she said. “I can use the experience I have to build partnerships and bring people to the table that are innovative in developing new models of overall healthcare.”

But while Lassiter is looking forward to this new challenge, it’s bittersweet as she moves out of her office at RCH.

“If I had to pick two things I’m most proud of during my time here at the hospital, one would be how we’ve improved the total package of healthcare to the communities we serve here by adding services and specialized medicine,” she observed. “The other would be the relationships I’ve built along the way….making the rounds here at RCH and talking every day with the front line people that do all the hard work and understanding what their issues are and trying to make sure the environment they work in is one where they’re happy to come to work every day. If they’re happy then they’re going to do a great job in taking care of the patients.”

She mentioned how proud she was over the fact that Vidant RCH has expanded specialty care though its clinics, to include its cancer care unit and pediatric asthma care unit, over the years.

Lassiter gave praise to the partnership RCH has built and maintained with Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center.

The new president at Vidant RCH will be Patrick Hines, a person that Lassiter said will do a “fantastic job.”

“Like myself, Patrick is a nurse by training and is a veteran with Vidant Health,” she said. “He’s actually been here at RCH since February as our Chief of Operations and has served as interim president at other Vidant hospitals as needed. He’s familiar with the hospital; he’s familiar with the staff, so it will be a seamless transition.”

Lassiter stressed that even though she is looking forward to building new relationships in her next job, she’ll miss those she has worked so closely with at RCH since she joined the hospital as Director of Nursing in 1985.

“You don’t cycle out old friends; I look forward to the new ones that will come my way in this new job, but RCH will always be in my heart. I wish Patrick and the staff there the best,” she concluded.

Lassiter, a native of Maryland, received a Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree from D’youville College in Buffalo, NY. She then came south, landing a job in 1976 as a nurse at Duke University Hospital.

After two years as a staff nurse at Duke, Lassiter decided to further her education, enrolling at East Carolina University where she earned a Masters degree in Nursing in 1980. That move also allowed Lassiter to work at Pitt County Memorial Hospital (1978-1985), now the flagship medical facility of the Vidant Health System.

In 1985 she received a phone call from Pete Geilich (then the RCH President), offering her the job as Director of Nursing, which she accepted.

She succeeded Geilich as RCH President in early 1997, becoming the first woman in the hospital’s history (founded in 1948) to serve in that capacity.

Lassiter will remain entrenched in Ahoskie as a member of the Rotary Club, board member of the Communities in Schools of Hertford County, and the Hertford Health Maintenance Alliance.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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