“I’m going to find out what retirement is all about,” Minden Medical Center CEO George French III said as he bade farewell to a medical facility he has run for 34 years.
During a retirement reception in his honor Thursday evening, French says his official last day will Monday, May 2 and he will turn over the keys to the incoming interim CEO. Before a crowd of roughly 150 of his fellow co-workers, it was with fondness and much humor that he expressed his appreciation for the people who have built MMC into what it is today.
“You think you don’t want to take people’s time, and yet you can go down memory lane forever and ever,” French said. “I think that’s what life’s about, making memories, touching lives, making a difference. It’s kind of cliché-ish, but it’s why you feel so rich…When I look out, I think good-byes. Nope. Not now. When I look out here, all I see is MMC family here. I see folks that we have touched and will touch.”
Several well-wishers expressed their sincere appreciation to French for his hard work. Dr. Joseph Nida says had it not been for French, MMC would not be what it is today.
“Working with George has been an absolute joy,” he said. “The average tenure of a hospital CEO is about three and a half years. George has been here for 34 years. Because George is exceptional, it has allowed the medical staff to be exceptional; it’s allowed the other administrators and staff to not have turnovers that would happen. He’s allowed us to focus on caring for patients.”
Sherb Sentell III, president of the board of directors, says French has made their job as a board much smoother.
“George has been there so long, and he’s touched so many lives,” he said. “What George has done at our hospital has been phenomenal. He’s made our job unbelievably easy, because George gives credit to all the people who have done all the hard work in making stuff happen. He energizes people and it overflows to everybody.”
Sentell presented French with a plaque that includes his biography and accomplishments as well as the six different entities in which he’s been CEO at MMC.
“Anybody that can survive the transition or merger from six different entities and keep things rolling, it speaks volumes about you, your character and what you’ve done for our community,” he told French.
Chief Financial Officer Jim Williams says he came to MMC because of French, moving about eight years ago from Mississippi to Minden.
“I was perfectly happy where I was in my hometown in Mississippi and I enjoyed my job there,” he said. “When I came for the interview, he was very welcoming, and he spent the entire day with me. He gave me the entire full day, and that’s what sold me on it.”
He thanked French for his leadership and mentorship since he began at MMC.
“The foundation that you’ve built here is going to go on forever,” he said. “Everybody talks about what’s going to happen to the hospital. I can tell you what’s going to happen. You have prepared us to move forward above and beyond where you’ve taken us.”
French is originally from Alexandria and after serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he began his career in healthcare in 1974, serving 34 of those years at MMC. He has overseen the expansion of not only the employee base, but capital improvement projects including a new emergency room in 1993; a behavioral health unit in 1995; an inpatient rehabilitation unit in 2001; and a heart and vascular center in 2004. Additionally, the hospital expanded its labor and delivery unit in 2001; enhanced its radiology services by adding CT and MRI capabilities in 2004; replaced and expanded its intensive care unit in 2009; and opened the Health First After Hours Clinic in 2014.
A number of specialty practices have been added to the roster under his leadership including cardiology services; anesthesiology; behavioral health; ear, nose and throat; home health; nephrology; oncology; orthopedics and sports medicine; physical therapy; podiatry and telemedicine.
In 2003, 2009 and 2011, MMC was named as one of the 100 Top Hospitals and in 2010, he was LifePoint’s Fleetwood Award Winner. From 2011 to current, MMC has been on the Leapfrog Group’s Annual Top Hospital’s List and most recently named Business Person of the Year by the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce.
“My plan is to discover what retirement is all about, to remain relevant,” he said. “Jenny and I will be here many more years. No goodbyes and thank you all for your friendship, your love, your loyalty and your trust.”