For new chief, life revolves around hospital

January 24, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

Martin L. Doordan could have run a chicken farm. Instead, he's running Anne Arundel Health System, one of the largest employers in the county.

The new president of the Anne Arundel Medical Center's parent company is a self-described country boy who grew up in a rural Delaware town and almost followed in his father's footsteps, running orchards and chicken coops. Instead, he has landed in the jacket-and-tie world of hospital administration.

"You never know what might have been," said Mr. Doordan, 51.

There are traces of the anti-bureaucrat in him -- he wears his graying hair just a bit longer than average, has a penchant for country music and cowboy hats when he's not at work and goes by the nickname "Chip." But otherwise, he fits into the cadre of hospital administrators at the medical center.

After serving as the medical center's director for six years, Mr. Doordan was named last fall to head its parent company, with 1,800 employees and a $110 million budget.

Mr. Doordan said he wants the large-scale medical center to work with the philosophy of a small-town practice and that he plans to place greater emphasis on community outreach services and preventive care.

But in an era when hospitals must streamline their operations, the job will force Mr. Doordan to be flexible and inventive.

It will be the kind of organizational snipping and cutting he first learned when he was assigned to Vietnam in 1970 as an administrative officer for a dental surgeon. "We were on the road nine months out of the year, and when you have that many troops, there was a lot of surgery," he said. "A lot of it had to do with trauma."

He enjoyed the administrative duties so much that when his tour was over, he went back to graduate school and received a master's degree in health care administration from George Washington University.

Running hospitals was not the life he imagined while growing up in Bridgeville, Del., a town of 1,800 with a welcome sign that reads "If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now." His father, Martin, left a job as a teacher to raise chickens and tend orchards with a partner.

When the elder Mr. Doordan died of cancer at the age of 41, his partner took over. Young Chip went off to the University of Delaware after high school, planning to return home after college. But it never worked out that way. He went on to graduate school at Maryland and enlisted in the Army's Medical Service Corps in 1968. He landed his first job at the hospital in 1972 and turned it into his life's work.

He said his happiest moments on the job are those when he walks through the hospital's patient areas, which usually bustle with families and hospital staff.

"It always brings back why I'm in this, seeing the patients and their families," he said. "It isn't always happy, but it's part of life."

With the exception of his wife, Eileen, and his sons, Martin III, 20, and Sean, 16, there's little in Mr. Doordan's universe that does not revolve around the hospital.

He golfs on weekends with hospital board members and contractors. His family takes skiing trips with the past president of the medical system, Carl A. Brunetto, a close friend.

He routinely arrives at work by 7 a.m., and his wife is a a therapist in one of the hospital's substance abuse programs.

The reason Mr. Doordan's work and private life meld so closely is obvious, Mr. Brunetto said. "He loves to work. He just loves to work."

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