Gary Passama

Gary Passama retired as president and CEO of NorthBay Healthcare on March 31, 2017. An active blogger since 2010, here’s a collection of his work.

The Right Decision

March 28, 2017

On Friday, I retire. So this is my last entry.

 After posting more than 600 essays on my blog, I have pondered quite a bit about what I want to say as I start a new chapter in my life and as NorthBay Healthcare moves under new leadership. 

I could offer wisdom I have gained as I have grown older. The problem is I am not sure I am that wise. I resist the idea that I am old enough to be in a position to impart wisdom. 

One thing I have learned, however, is that the problems of the day always seem overwhelming – until you are confronted with the problems of tomorrow.  Let’s start with something everyone in health care is fretting about, the Affordable Care Act. Whatever comes next, we will survive. There will always be a new challenge that grips us. That is life.

Thinking about whether I would make the same decision I made nearly 50 years ago, to go into hospital administration, my mind began to rewind.

In high school and during my first year of college I was on a path to medical school. I was a very good science student, but I sensed I was more of a “big picture” guy. In my freshman year in college I took chemistry and economics at the same time. Did well in both, but liked economics much more.

That started me down the road to earning an undergraduate degree in business and a graduate degree in hospital administration.

While I have not been the one who provides care for patients, I have enjoyed being the person who, behind the scenes, provides support to care givers. There are many of us who do this. In our own way, we create connections to patients.

A great source of satisfaction is watching how frontline care givers make their connection to patients. Early in my career I watched a nurse late at night in a critical care unit brush the hair of a teenage girl who was suffering from a serious auto-immune disease. She took the girl’s hand and whispered to her. I do not know what she said but it calmed the young patient. A connection was made.

I saw another nurse in an emergency service who insisted that we prepare a just-deceased elderly woman before her husband arrived so that he would begin his grieving process remembering his wife as the beautiful woman she was. That was another kind of connection.

I was present when a woman, who had just been told she had a terminal disease, asked the doctor, “Why me?” He took her hand, talked to her about life and death – and faith. Yet another type of connection.

These were among hundreds, maybe thousands, of examples where a patient was being told by the care giver’s action: I care. You are important. We will do the best we can for you.

In my much more distant role, I hope I conveyed that same message to our staff and to the community we serve.

I do know, without question, I made the right career decision.


  1. Dan Ford
    April 02, 2017 at 12:00

    Clearly you have made wise decisions throughout your career and life, Gary, including learning from the ones that did not work out. Blessings to you in this new season of your life....Dan Ford

  2. Wendy Jackson
    March 31, 2017 at 12:00

    Your contribution to NorthBay Health care will forever be remembered. You definitely made the right career choice. Congratulations on a remarkable career. You will be missed.

  3. Ryan Wiersdorf
    March 29, 2017 at 12:00

    Gary, You've left your prints all over NorthBay and your influence will be felt for years and years to come. Congratulations on your amazing career and my best wishes for the adventures that await you!

  4. Maria Huynh
    March 29, 2017 at 12:00

    Thank you for your visionary stewardship of our NorthBay Healthcare organization. Go Bears!

  5. Don McKenna
    March 28, 2017 at 12:00

    Rarely has any organization had such an accomplished advocate. You brought wit, insight and humility to the inscrutable world of healthcare. Thanks for giving us all a glimpse of the big picture.

  6. Wanda Fletcher
    March 28, 2017 at 12:00

    Thank you everything you have done for NorthBay Healthcare and for Solano County.


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