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Jim Kenyon: Cottage Hospital, D-H officials really want people to like them

  • Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Columnist
Published: 1/4/2020 10:32:32 PM
Modified: 1/4/2020 10:32:06 PM

Now that the holiday season is over, maybe the Upper Valley’s hospital executives can get back to work. They’ve wasted enough of their time — and ours — in recent weeks on feeble attempts to get more people to like them.

I know, it sounds very junior high-ish.

But from tiny Cottage Hospital in Woodsville to behemoth Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, hospital honchos seem bent on increasing their own popularity.

Last month, Cottage took out ads in New Hampshire newspapers, including this one, to showcase CEO Maria Ryan. The half-page ad, with a portrait photo of Ryan to boot, was brimming with stuff I didn’t know. I had no idea that Ryan was a Catholic schoolgirl from Manchester who has a “zest for life” or that “her knowledge is vast.”

Not to be outdone in the schmaltz department, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, which consists of DHMC and its affiliated hospitals, took to the internet.

Before Christmas, the D-H empire released a YouTube video that featured its various hospital CEOs and assorted bigwigs gushing about what the holidays mean to them.

With a well-adorned Christmas tree serving as a backdrop, D-H CEO Joanne Conroy is seen sitting in front of a fireplace, chatting about baking her favorite holiday cookies.

Listening to Conroy prattle on about muffin tins and molasses filling, I felt a sudden case of acid reflux. But it could have been from just the mention of sweets.

Later in the video, Chief Financial Officer Dan Jantzen is given an opportunity to reminisce about the Christmas gifts he received as a boy. Now that he has grandsons, Jantzen said he’s back to spending the days after Christmas playing with new toys. With a job that pays $850,000 a year, Jantzen should be able to afford a lot of nice toys.

But when it comes to self-obsession, Don Caruso, CEO of Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, was the clear-cut winner. He spent part of his air time filling us in on his family’s holiday plans: “We’ll head up on Christmas Day to go skiing in northern Vermont and have a great Christmas feast.”

The nurse’s aides at Cheshire Medical Center must have been thrilled to hear that Caruso would be hitting the slopes while they emptied bedpans on Christmas Day.

The video ended with a bunch of smiling rank-and-file employees waving to the camera and wishing happy holidays. The intended takeaway being that D-H is a wonderful place to work — even if you’re not pulling in a half-million dollars or more a year like many of the execs in the clip.

D-H spokesman Rick Adams told me the three-minute YouTube video was an “internal message” meant to “spread a little holiday cheer.”

And here I thought that it was done for the benefit of DHMC’s psych department to analyze why high-powered hospital execs are so desperate to humanize themselves.

A giant health care organization trying to pretend there’s a friendly face behind it all doesn’t sell — even during the holidays.

But perhaps D-H execs are so lacking in self-awareness that they don’t realize that most people aren’t interested in watching their boss drone on about his upcoming ski trip.

D-H’s crass attempt to make its well-paid leaders into everyday people, however, pales in comparison to Cottage Hospital’s marketing handiwork on behalf of its CEO.

“Even with a long list of formal and national commendations, Dr. Ryan continues to place the needs of her community first,” the ad states. “As a result, she is recognized within her community as a genuine, caring and kind leader.”

Cottage makes Dr. Ryan, as the ad refers to her numerous times, to be the second coming of Marcus Welby. Except she’s not a medical doctor. A registered nurse, Ryan holds a Ph.D. in health care administration and management from Warren National University, according to her LinkedIn page. (Footnote: The online school based in Wyoming is no longer in business.)

Dhaniele Duffy, Cottage’s community relations liaison, told me that she wrote the “article” with the “intent of recognizing and congratulating” Ryan on recently being named among the state’s 200 most influential business leaders by New Hampshire Business Review.

I shouldn’t be critical of Duffy’s writing, but she buried the lead. She waited to the 10th paragraph to mention the juiciest material.

“When asked how she copes with reporters publishing false information about her,” Duffy wrote, “Maria shared that her husband, Robert Ryan, provides her with the best counsel. ‘Never abandon your friends because of peer pressure. Continue to be your best self and be the best friend you can be to others.’ ”

Could Ryan be referring to her much-publicized friendship with former New York City mayor and Trump frontman Rudy Giuliani?

The New York tabloids have linked Ryan and Giuliani, who is in the midst of his third divorce, for more than a year.

The Washington Post has reported Giuliani and Ryan saying the relationship is not romantic; they’re just friends.

In September, they arrived together for a White House state dinner. They’ve been seen traveling everywhere from Albania to Paris with a trip to Israel thrown in.

I’m sure there’s nothing to the rumors. Ryan and Giuliani are probably just training for Dancing with the Stars.

I was supposed to talk with Ryan on Friday afternoon, but her office called off the phone interview.

Too bad. I was looking forward to learning what Giuliani henchmen Igor and Lev are really like.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.




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