Steady Leadership in the South

As a new year begins, so, too, does a new era in leadership on our Hudson campus. Jay P. Cahalan will retire as president and CEO of Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) after nearly a decade. Familiar to many in the Mid-Hudson Valley, Cahalan dedicated 28 years to the people of the Columbia Memorial community. His career is rich in accomplishments. Cahalan’s closest adviser and chief operating officer, Dorothy M. Urschel, DNP, will succeed Cahalan as president and CEO on Jan. 1, 2023. Cahalan and Urschel share professional commonalities beyond their titles: They both began in patient-facing roles, and that experience is an evident trademark of their service.

Celebrating Jay P. Cahalan

Take a stroll through Hudson on a Saturday afternoon, and you’ll understand how it got its nickname as “The Friendly City.” Maybe you’ll run into Cahalan, and you’ll see it even more. Community is the essence of the Albany Med Health System’s hospitals, and Cahalan holds great respect for the relationship CMH holds with its neighbors.

“When you live in a community and perform work in service of that community, you become very attuned to its wants, needs, and hopes,” Cahalan said. “I’ve always found it important to listen to our residents—they are our patients, colleagues, and friends. Their health drove every decision we ever made. Our job is to keep this community thriving and reaching new heights.”

Before he came to CMH, Cahalan was a radiologic technologist, clinical instructor of radiologic technology, radiology administrator, and vice president of diagnostic services in Connecticut. Working closely with patients and colleagues, Cahalan saw first-hand the impact of skilled, compassionate patient care, and the value of nurturing an environment in which professionals can be their best.

He also saw the interconnectedness of health care. Every place on a patient’s journey of healing is critical and must be linked, accessible, and excellent. This made Cahalan the perfect fit to become CMH’s chief operating officer in 1994.

We wanted to bring CMH from Hudson to home,” he recalled. “The mid- to late-90s were pivotal times for our growth. We developed our primary care and multispecialty network across the rivers, fields, and mountains that line our region. Those were not barriers for us. They were opportunities to reach more people with the care they needed.”

Under Cahalan’s leadership, CMH expanded its services and footprint in Columbia, Greene, and Dutchess counties. He transformed the way CMH delivered care by developing a network of community-based primary and multispecialty providers in addition to hospital-based services. Cahalan was instrumental in the acquisition of the Greene Medical Arts Center, which preserved access to specialty care in Catskill, and the addition of physician practices in Tannersville, Coxsackie, Cairo, and Catskill. He was directly involved in significant additions to the main Hudson campus, including the construction of the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation Medical Office Building and the Kneller wing. CMH also extended new medical services to Valatie and Copake during Cahalan’s tenure.

In 2016, CMH and Albany Medical Center became the first hospital members of what is now the Albany Med Health System. As a member of the System, CMH now provides additional resources for advanced care.

“Working together with our System, CMH has redoubled its commitment to the community with expanded access to comprehensive care,” Cahalan said. Today, nearly two dozen clinical services, including breast, vascular, and neurosurgery, are integrated or closely aligned between CMH and other System members.

CMH Board of Trustees chair Kirk Kneller said, “Jay and his team strengthened access to health care and broadened the scope of services CMH provides. In this way, he has made an indelible impact on the very health of our communities. Our region is fortunate to have benefitted from Jay’s leadership, which has established CMH as a steadfast partner in the lives of all our neighbors.”

Cahalan will remain a member of the board of the Columbia Memorial Health Foundation.

“My greatest privilege has been serving this community alongside incredible colleagues who have inspired me every day. I sincerely thank the people of our community for their trust in Columbia Memorial Health, and our dedicated team of professionals whose compassionate quality care has improved countless lives.”

Trusted Experience: Dorothy M. Urschel

Dr. Urschel puts her heart and soul into everything she does.

Her heart has been in health care from the very beginning of her career. It began in western New York, where she was a critical care nurse and thoracic surgery nurse practitioner at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Later, she became an acute care cardiac surgery nurse practitioner with Kaleida Health in Buffalo.

“I never lost touch with my experience at the bedside,” Dr. Urschel said. “It connects me with our patients and providers. The moments they share define who we are.”

As the new president and CEO of CMH, Dr. Urschel will oversee the 192-bed hospital in Hudson and more than 40 primary and specialty care centers. She has seen the many sides of health care delivery, from direct patient care to administrative functions, from local and system levels. Dr. Urschel came to our region in 2007, to join St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. When St. Peter’s Health Partners was formed, Dr. Urschel served as vice president of cardiac and vascular services across the system and as vice president of operations and chief nursing officer for Albany Memorial Hospital.

In 2020, Dr. Urschel entered the CMH family as chief operating officer. She has been integral to the execution of CMH’s Covid-19 response plan, recruitment efforts, and financial strategy. Dr. Urschel is also a leader on the team at CMH for Care One: our work to implement a single electronic medical record (EMR) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) program across the Albany Med Health System.

Quality, patient-centered care, and patient access will be among Dr. Urschel’s first priorities.

“Health care is about the holistic treatment of every individual, and our team is dedicated to that approach,” Dr. Urschel said. “Since 1889, CMH has been a pillar of our community. Our culture is rooted in a rich history and deep values. I am honored to lead my colleagues as we embrace the future of health care, innovating dynamically to meet the needs of our patients.”

Dr. Urschel will work alongside, and be an integral part of, the Albany Med Health System team.
“Dorothy’s demonstrated leadership in patient care, administration, and system integration position her perfect to lead Columbia Memorial Health,” said Dennis P. McKenna, MD, president and CEO of the Albany Med Health System.

“She possesses deep, experiential knowledge of every aspect of the operation. I look forward to standing with Dorothy and her team as we continue to advance health care in our region, building connections between the hospitals and clinics within our System, and solidifying our future as the provider of choice in every community we serve.”

Dr. Urschel has touched each facet of our System mission: patient care, research, and education. In addition to her nursing and administrative roles, she has held academic positions at the University at Buffalo and Daemen University in Amherst. Her clinical research and writing have been cited in numerous professional publications. Recognized for her community commitment in 2017, she was honored by the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region with its Resourceful Woman award.

Her personal pursuits provide some balance and an opportunity to recharge. When not at CMH, Dr. Urschel is at the piano, playing the classical compositions of Beethoven or Mozart, or a pop rock hit from today. There’s nothing quite like an upstate New York summer, and Dr. Urschel enjoys them most from her kayak, paddling through the light chop on Lake Ontario.

“Every note on the keyboard, and every turn of the paddle ground me to the purpose of our work,” she said. “It’s the actions of our skilled providers that advance the health of our community and allow each patient to live to their fullest potential. Our work makes a difference. It brings joy to the people we serve.”