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5 Questions for Melissa Wendt Tymchuk
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About Melissa Wendt Tymchuk

Age: 37
Hometown: Homer
Length of time in Northeast Georgia: My entire life has been spent in Northeast Georgia. I’ve lived in Gainesville for 15 years.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia
Occupation: Director of public relations and marketing
Most interesting job: This one, of course!
Family information: Married to a Hall County native, Danny Tymchuk. We have one daughter, Mary Eloise, 5, and a son on the way (due in August).

Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to askthetimes@gainesvilletimes.com.

Melissa Wendt Tymchuk has seen Northeast Georgia Medical Center grow tremendously during her 15 years in the public relations office. Now, as the hospital gets ready to build a new hospital in South Hall and deal with the new health care law, Tymchuk is taking on a new challenge, as well — as director of public relations and marketing. Today, The Times asks Tymchuk five questions about her new role at the hospital.

1. How will your job change in this new position?

In the PR and marketing manager role, I worked closely with several service lines in the organization as the point person coordinating their strategic marketing plans, in addition to managing the operations of the department.

In the director role, I will still work closely with all of the health system’s service lines to achieve business objectives, but not act as the sole point person for any specific one.

Instead, I will oversee the strategic marketing and public relations for all of the health system’s services and work more on organizationwide communication initiatives, supporting our administration leadership and community boards.

2. What part of your job do you find most interesting?

The fact that each day is different than the one before is something I truly enjoy. Because we produce all of our work in-house (i.e., we don’t contract with a public relations or advertising agency), I have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of our PR and marketing work — from the initial brainstorming and conceptualizing until the final placement.

We have an incredible staff of account managers and graphic designers, and I really enjoy when we bring all of our creative minds together to brainstorm an advertising campaign or create a unique special event and then all work together to bring the ideas to fruition.

I can’t say enough about the great staff in our department; our work has been recognized with numerous national and statewide awards, and they truly are exceptional.

The health care industry is also extremely interesting and very rewarding. Having the opportunity to share stories of our patients, whose lives have been transformed by outstanding care provided by our physicians and staff, is something I love to do.

3. What challenges does Northeast Georgia Medical Center face with all the changes in health care in recent years?

Obviously, the first thought surrounding this question is in regards to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform law), which was just upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since the law was passed in March 2010, Northeast Georgia Health System has been working in earnest to prepare for the law’s full implementation in 2014. In fact, our recent designation as one of the HealthStrong Top 100 Hospitals in the nation was based on measures of performance which identified the hospitals across the country that are best prepared for success under the new health care laws.

So, our work around important measures that focus on better access to care, improved clinical outcomes and increased patient satisfaction continues as it did before. But, even beyond health care reform, we have seen increasing changes in health care during the last several years. The economic recession has caused many residents in our state to lose insurance coverage — through unemployment, because their employer no longer offers coverage or because they are unable to afford it.

I am proud that our health system provides a high level of charity care to the uninsured or underinsured and works in partnership with patients who may struggle to pay their bills. We also are strong supporters of community initiatives such as Good News Clinics and Health Access Initiative, which are serving the uninsured in our community.

The downturn in the economy has also put increasing pressure on the reimbursement we receive from Medicare and Medicaid, so we continually have to work more efficiently and be diligent about controlling costs. Thankfully, NGHS has strong leadership and vision and has kept our organization financially sound, in a time when many hospitals around the country are struggling.

4. You’ve been in public relations with the hospital for 15 years. How has the organization changed during that time?

During my 15 years here, I have seen the organization change tremendously. The addition of the Women & Children’s Pavilion in 2008 followed by the North Patient Tower in 2009 essentially doubled the size of our campus.

At that time, we also opened a new medical office building at River Place in South Hall County and now are looking forward to breaking ground on the new Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton later this year.

But our organization has grown not only in size but also in the level of sophistication of our services. I was here during our five-year campaign to “bring hearts home” that finally culminated with the start of open heart surgery services at the Ronnie Green Heart Center in 2002.

Through the incredible talent and expertise of our physicians and staff, we were named No. 1 in Georgia for heart care four short years later and have maintained that designation for seven consecutive years.

This is just one example — we have physicians performing procedures that are one-of-a-kind in our region and in our state, and that is helping us attract patients from around the state and even the nation. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the personal attention provided by our clinical and support staff.

I remember when I came here that we were continually praised by patients for personalized, attentive care, and that continues today. Despite the growth of our organization, we have been able to maintain a community feel in our organization that I believe is evident to our patients.

5. If you couldn’t do this type of work, what field do you think you’d pursue and why?

My fantasy “dream job” is to host a radio show, specifically a syndicated love song dedication show like Delilah’s. Crazy, I know, but I really “love” love songs, especially those from the ’80s, and picking just the right song for listeners’ stories seems like a lot of fun (I’m intrigued to know if she has a computer program that helps her search or if she just thinks of them off the top of her head.)

More seriously, I learned early on — during a college internship at a worldwide aluminum company — that I can only do this type of work (PR and marketing) at a company that I truly believe in, both the product/service they offer and the leadership of that organization.

Therefore, I have always said that the only other place I could see myself working besides Northeast Georgia Health System is Chick-fil-A because they are also a great organization. But I love Gainesville and NGHS and don’t want to live in South Atlanta, so I hope I’m able to stay at NGHS for a very long time!

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