45 years strong: honoring the past, celebrating the present & embracing the future

SNVMC gears up for its 45th Anniversary

A series of stories looking back on Sentara Northern Virginia's history

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Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center: The Beginning

As we prepare to celebrate our 45th Birthday, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is taking a look back at the history which shaped the facility into what it is today.

While it’s hard to imagine now, at one point the hospital campus was comprised of open fields. And, before 1972, if residents had a medical emergency they had to travel either to Fredericksburg or Alexandria for care; for many, Manassas wasn’t even an option! That’s where the idea was born for a hospital on the eastern end of the county.

In 1965, the Woodbridge Jaycees hired professional consultants to study the feasibility of such a plan. Architects were hired and at least five sites were surveyed to determine the hospital's location.

In June 1968, community leaders joined together to form the Potomac Hospital Corporation, and elected John Johnson, then head of Virginia Power, president.

Howard Greenhouse, who would later go onto to become the first chairman of the Potomac Hospital Board of Trustees, was a businessman at the time. But, he soon found himself involved in the project.

“It was a struggle to start,” Greenhouse remembers.

In 1969, the first hospital membership drive began and soon there were 3,300 members ready and willing to support the hospital's fundraising efforts. At one point, volunteers like Greenhouse were going door to door asking for donations.

“I can tell you that was not my most enjoyable time spent, because I hate when people ask me for money and I don’t want to go ask someone else,” Greenhouse chuckles, ”But, where else was there?”

The community answered the call. When it was all said and done, more than two million dollars was raised. A 77 acre building site was purchased for $258,070.70 from Mrs. Anna Greisch. Mrs. Johanna Opitz, a longtime area land owner, then dedicated the right of way to the property which is now Opitz Boulevard. It was from there, Potomac Hospital was born.

Langston “Rich” Richardson became the hospital’s first administrator. “There was never a doubt in my mind it would succeed,” says the now 89-year-old Richardson, thinking back. “Everybody was interested (in the success) because we were building something from scratch and they had put their soul and heart into it. And, that’s what made Potomac Hospital what it is.”

In 2009, Potomac Hospital joined one of the largest health systems in Virginia, Sentara Healthcare. The name has changed to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, but the mission to provide quality patient care remains the same. Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is a hospital built for the community, by the community.

The formation of the Auxiliary

The grassroots effort to launch Potomac Hospital was a community labor of love. The hospital wouldn’t be what it is today without its rich history of volunteers.

In April of 1971, the Potomac Hospital Auxiliary held its charter meeting. By May, the group had 183 members who had pledged 50 thousand dollars towards the hospital campaign.

“The community answered!” says Audrey Greenhouse, remembering more than 45 years later.

For Audrey Greenhouse, the hospital became a family affair. While her husband, Howard had been recruited for the project and would later go onto become the first chairman of the Potomac Hospital Board of Trustees, Mrs. Greenhouse soon found herself involved with the Auxiliary, “I remember the first meeting at the Covenant Presbyterian Church. It was a very large turnout. We were so pleased!” 

On opening day, Auxiliary volunteers manned the information desk and later began assisting with a variety of tasks.

Sally Baldwin, who is still active in the Auxiliary and volunteers every week, was there that day, “I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years and I’ve seen it grow so much, from 25 beds to 183.” When asked what makes it so special, Baldwin says the answer is simple, “Just the people you meet: the employees, the other volunteers.”

The Auxilians also opened, and still operate, the hospital Gift Shop, with proceeds supporting hospital projects. Some of those projects include: the worship room, the exercise room, the Sentara Mobile Mammography van and the Family Health Connection vans, just to name a few.

The program still thrives and counts nearly 300 members.

As for Audrey Greenhouse, she says she’s still involved with the auxiliary, but not to the extent that she once was because of health issues; but looking back its obvious the great pride she still has in the organization that has been a part of her life for nearly five-decades, “It’s sort of what I was put on this earth to do,” she says smiling and nodding solemnly.

For more information about the Auxiliary or to learn how you can become involved, please call 703-523-1345. To support Auxiliary projects for the community with a monetary donation, please mail checks to: Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center Auxiliary, Volunteer Services, 2300 Opitz Boulevard, Woodbridge, VA 22191.

William “Bill” Moss, a legacy of more than three decades of service

Over the course of Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s history there have been just six administrators. Once Rich Richardson stepped down, he passed the baton to Mr. William “Bill” Moss.

You could say healthcare is in Moss’ blood.

His mother was a nurse at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) in Richmond. As soon as he turned 18, Moss started working there part-time in medical records. He continued there as he went onto college at the University of Richmond and then as he pursued his graduate degree at MCV in health administration.

His residency in healthcare took him to Roanoke Memorial Hospital in southwest Virginia. It was there he met his preceptor, William “Ham” Flannagan, Jr., little did he know decades later he’d be working with his mentor’s son. After studying under Flannagan, he went on to work for him as Assistant Director of the Hospital.  After three-years there, Moss became the administrator at Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham, North Carolina.

Even though Moss loved the team in North Carolina, the Virginia native missed the Commonwealth. It was after a family trip to D.C. he submitted his application to the hospital in person.

“When I first came here- coming up the road, there was Opitz Boulevard, which is now four-lanes going over the interstate, but at the time, it was a two-lane road that dead ended. In fact, I went up and turned around- and the hospital was so low, I didn’t realize it was a hospital. I thought I had missed it and that the library was the hospital!” he remembers. 

Moss got the job. He started on July 1, 1978. Initially, he worried about leaving projects behind in North Carolina, but he didn’t have long to worry, because he inherited a number of building projects of his own.

“This was the last community hospital in Virginia, it started as a grassroots effort in the community, all the rest of the hospitals that have been created since this hospital opened were off-shoots of major hospitals,” Moss explains.

During his 31 years at the helm, Moss saw the hospital and its services grow: several Emergency Department renovations, critical care, mental health, the patient tower and the Potomac Center Office building- the projects are endless. Including the transition from Potomac Hospital to Sentara. 

Even though Bill Moss left the hospital more than eight years ago, in true Moss style, he jumped right into another project, and became a member of the Potomac Health Foundation. It’s in this role, he has been able to affect even more change to help the community he loves.

Moving forward in the next 45 years, Moss says he hopes the hospital continues to do bigger and better things and remains a mainstay in the community, “At one point they were saying that hospitals were going to become obsolete, that people would be treated at home and online. That’s never going to happen. You needed dedicated professionals working on you 24/7 and looking after you. You gotta have that,” he says smiling.

Bill Flannagan: Transitioning to Sentara

As Bill Moss retired, Bill Flannagan, his number two, stepped up into the top spot.

Flannagan was no stranger to the hospital and how it ran.

“I used to tell administrative residents, the thing about a small hospital is you always get to meet and work with everyone. You go to larger hospital system –it’s a different kind of experience. You go to a smaller place, you’ll get to know what it takes to run a hospital,” explains Flannagan.

Flannagan had had that chance. Before Potomac Hospital he had worked at Southside Regional Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia before heading to Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. It was in 1980, he joined the Potomac Hospital leadership team as Vice President of Professional Services, later becoming the Vice President of Operations. In 1985, he was named Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer responsible for day-to-day hospital and affiliated operations.

The move to President was a natural one, but it was during some of the hospital’s most tumultuous times. In 2009, Potomac Hospital joined Sentara, one of the largest health systems in Virginia. Speaking frankly, Flannagan admits it was challenging, “It was a difficult time because there was some very high expectations to make it all turn out right. That the deal financially and operationally went well and with that much money involved, that’s a high concern type of situation.”  Flannagan says a deal that big had a lot of moving parts behind the scenes, which many people didn’t realize, “It may not have seemed like it, but it was speeding along rapidly for those kinds of deals. There was a lot of stuff people didn’t see that needed to be accomplished. So, it was stressful.”

It was during this time, Flannagan lost a close friend which he says reemphasized the desire to retire earlier than the traditional 65. In April 2010, after shepherding the hospital through the acquisition process, Flannagan stepped down. 

In the seven years since retirement, he’s enjoyed some fishing, traveled to England and Ireland and spent more time with his family including two young grandsons.

He says while he misses seeing his work family every day, years later he still feels proud of what he accomplished here, including the sale of the hospital.

“It was probably the best thing that we could have done to be an ongoing resource for our community. And, that’s the way we’ve always looked at ourselves- as a community hospital, not any one system per se, but as a hospital that serves the people who live around here.”

Potomac Health Foundation

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center wasn’t the only thing created by the Potomac Hospital/Sentara Healthcare merger. Potomac Hospital used the proceeds of the merger to create the Potomac Health Foundation. The goal? To promote wellness and prevent disease in the communities historically served by Potomac Hospital.

Executive Director Susie Lee explains, “We make grants to community health programs to improve the health of the community and to increase access for the medically underserved in Eastern Prince William County, Southern Fairfax and Northern Stafford.”

Lee is one of three, full-time staff members employed by the foundation. The foundation itself is governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors. Each board member has strong ties to the community and believes in creating a positive future through the foundation.

“One of the values of the Potomac Health Foundation is we’re really maintaining the legacy, and I think one of the reasons they created the foundation is that they wanted to maintain the legacy of Potomac Hospital and serving the community,” says Lee.

To that end, Lee says the foundation grants approximately five million dollars to about 45 different agencies within the service area, a year. That money has gone to helping fund a number of programs such as: the health center, free clinic, prescription programs and the Family Health Connection Mobile Van – just to name a few.  

Moving forward, Lee says the organization will make health access and mental health its chief focus, but also provide grantees more direction and more opportunities to work together and coordinate their work. It’s all in hopes of operating more efficiently and not duplicating efforts.

“I see us taking a more active role in conversations that are happening in community at large around issues about health. I think we spent our first five years being responsive and being funders. Moving forward, (I see us) having more of an impact and actually moving the needle on some of these health indicators,” explains Lee.