It was Sept. 1, 1951, when the 90-bed Hall County Hospital opened its doors at 743 Spring St. in Gainesville
On Monday, 65 years later, a group of panelists gathered at what is now Northeast Georgia Medical Center to reminisce further on the roots of the local facility.
Current and former leaders of the Medical Center showed up at the hospital’s Walters Auditorium for the 65th anniversary celebration. It included “A Walk Down Memory Lane,” led by seven guest speakers.
Among them was Mary Lynn Coyle, an outgoing chair of the Northeast Georgia Health System Board of Trustees. Coyle’s involvement with Northeast Georgia Medical Center began as a “candy striper” volunteer at then-Hall County Hospital. She served as chair of the Lanier Park Hospital Board of Trustees and chaired the Unification Committee when NGMC acquired Lanier Park in 2001.
“It’s amazing to think of all the accomplishments,” Coyle said. “And, it’s never been about the bricks and mortar. It’s about serving the patients. The patients have always been uppermost in the minds of this organization. We do what is best for the community and the people we serve, and we never forget that.”
Fellow panelist LeTrell Simpson, who joined NGMC in 1970 as the hospital’s first public relations director, said serving the community had always been big.
She talked about some of the milestones, including in 1976 when Hall County Hospital became Northeast Georgia Medical Center and completed $10 million in expansions.
“We became Northeast Georgia Medical Center so that we could begin to spread out and become the regional hub ... and the results exceeded our expectations,” Simpson said.
Simpson said one of the things her then-boss John Ferguson (who was also on Monday’s panel) always said was this: “We need to always remember that the hospital belongs to the people of Gainesville and Hall County.”
Added Simpson: “It’s always been very important to involve the community.”
Carol Burrell, current president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System, said community has always been key, as well as the leadership of the past.
“I often feel that we are afforded the position we’re in today because of those who came before us,” Burrell said. “Our integration with the community (built initially by leaders of the past), that’s what’s helping to make us successful today. We stand on their shoulders.”
Other panelists included John Ferguson, Buddy Langston, Timothy Scully and Philip Wilheit Sr.
“It’s been rewarding to see this organization grow in such a way that it has,” Coyle said. “The people who work here are absolutely passionate about excellence and care, and that’s been very rewarding to see.”