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Posted March 27, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Hospital system names chief executive

Texas man chosen for his ‘extensive executive leadership experience;’ will begin here June 8

By James Heffernan — jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER — Valley Health has tapped another Texas man to lead its growing health care system.

Mark H. Merrill, executive vice president of Texas Health Resources and president of the nonprofit health system’s flagship, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, will assume the roles of president and CEO of Valley Health on June 8.

“Mark Merrill has extensive executive leadership experience from two large, sophisticated health systems, and understands the delivery of quality healthcare within a system environment,” says Valley Health Chairman F. Dixon Whitworth in a press release. “We expect him to take Valley Health to the next level of excellence as set forth in our long-range strategic plan.”

Prior to joining Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Merrill served as vice president of operations and administrative services at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Before that, he was employed by the American Hospital Association in Chicago.

Merrill said Thursday he has only been in discussions with Valley Health for a few months, but he knew of Winchester Medical Center’s reputation, and he came away from a recent visit impressed with both the organization and its people.

“For a health system its size, it has very robust clinical programs,” he said, citing WMC’s status as a Level II trauma center and its Top 100 hospital distinction from HealthGrades.

“It is a quality system in an area that is very attractive to me and my family,” he said. “The timing was positive.”

Merrill and his wife, Teri, have two children, ages 14 and 18.

Texas Health, formed in 1997, is the largest faith-based nonprofit health system in North Texas, with 12 acute-care hospitals and one long-term care facility totaling 3,100 beds and more than 3,600 physicians.

By contrast, Valley Health has nearly 500 doctors, with hospitals in Winchester, Front Royal, Woodstock, Luray and Romney, W.Va. The system also manages War Memorial Hospital in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

“Valley Health is well positioned in the market,” Merrill said, adding that he wants to help the board of directors build upon its vision for growth.

He notes among his accomplishments at Texas Health Resources the implementation of a system-wide electronic medical record system, a key component in President Obama’s health care agenda.

“I think that would be something that we would definitely want to consider” at Valley Health, he said.

A native of Charlotte, N.C., Merrill is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Science degree in public health.

Valley Health’s board has been searching for a chief executive since the sudden departure of Reese Jackson, another Texas native, in September. Jackson, who last summer was named chief operating officer, was being groomed for the system’s top post following the announced retirement of longtime President and CEO Michael J. Halseth.

Halseth, who has been assuming those duties on an interim basis, will now retire in June but continue with Valley Health in a consulting role through the end of the year.

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