A Truly Inspirational Story How Mary Lane’s Chad Mullin Went from Spinning News to Making Some

When Charles (Chad) Mullin was manager of public relations and marketing for Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, he would often “hang out” (his words) in departments such as radiology, cardiology, the lab, the sleep program, and others.

“I was the ‘PR guy who just wouldn’t leave them alone,’” said Mullin, adding that he was fascinated with the new technologies and procedures put to use in those departments.

Outwardly, he was looking for story angles for the internal publications for which he would write and edit, and also for ways to generate external press for the small, 31-bed hospital he joined in 1997.

But there was much more going on.

He was watching, learning, and appreciating the work being done, while also setting an ambitious career goal — to one day be the one leading those departments in the position known as director of Diagnostic Services.

The position was occupied when he set that goal, of course, but he knew that someday it would be available. And he went about making himself job-ready — by taking the knowledge he had amassed and coupling it with an MBA he earned from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst in the spring of 2008.

The day before commencement, his father passed away unexpectedly.

“I still walked down the aisle to get my diploma,” said Mullin, adding that he did so more out of respect for his father than anything else. And a few months later, when the director of Diagnostic Services position did in fact come open, he showed that respect again.

“My father was always saying that, if you want something in life, just do it,” said Mullin. “When I went back to school, I just wanted to get my education and to get this job.”

And roughly a year ago, he was given the title he long coveted. The work, as he expected, is challenging and rewarding, and he enjoys just about everything about it.

In this issue, The Healthcare News looks at how Mullen made the unusual leap from PR to hospital administration, and how he’s settled into this important role.

Hot Off the Press

Mullin told The Healthcare News that it wasn’t long after he arrived at Baystate Mary Lane that he concluded that, despite its small size, this was a hospital he wanted to stay with — although not necessarily in that position.

“For me, it’s the people, and the fact that you’re involved in a lot of decision-making,” said Mullin, adding that, soon after arriving, he got a real feel for the sense of what he called “family” that exists at the hospital. “Patients know employees, mothers bring their daughters, and eventually those daughters being their daughters; there’s a real community connection here.”

Mullin got to know every corner, every aspect of the hospital in his role as manager of public relations and marketing, a job he ascended to after serving for two years as a public-relations assistant at Baystate Medical Center. He actually started as an intern at Baystate, worked briefly in public relations for the Big E, and then returned to the medical center.

At Mary Lane, Mullin was responsible for public-relations functions; internal employee, management, and medical staff communication; and marketing activities. He also coordinated special events. In the course of doing all that, he developed a keen understanding of how the hospital and its various departments, especially the diagnostic areas, worked — and how they could work more efficiently.

All this contributed to Mullin’s goal of someday leading the diagnostics department, a progression he admitted was somewhat unusual, and perhaps only doable at a smaller hospital like Mary Lane.

When now-former Diagnostics Director Bill Patten announced his plans to leave for another opportunity in the summer of ’08, Mullin had a lengthy talk with Mary Lane President and CEO Christine Shirtcliff about the position and his desire to hold it. Actually, he said he had spoken to her often about his desire to be in hospital administration at some point.

What he told her — and The Healthcare News — is that, while he lacked direct experience in administration, he had a thorough understanding of the hospital, its component parts, and how to remain competitive in the local health care market.

“I think the 12 years of working here prior to seeking this role helped prepare me for it,” he explained, “because when you work in a small community hospital, you have exposure to a lot of clinical and non-clinical work. I had a good understanding of the operations arena.”

This level of understanding was obviously communicated to those interviewing candidates, and the message resonated with them.

As director of Diagnostic Services, Mullin supervises roughly 65 employees working in several different departments. They include Diagnostic Radiology, Mammography, Nuclear Medicine, Ultrasound, CT, Cardiology, Laboratory, the Sleep Program, Respiratory, and Outpatient Specialty Services.

He knows all the numbers — 29,000 radiology exams a year, 165,000 lab tests, and 280 sleep studies — but, more importantly, he knows the people behind the numbers

There was still a learning curve for Mullin, but he said he had — and still has — a good support network to help him in what is still a career in transition.

“I knew going into the position that I wasn’t going to be out there on an island,” he explained. “That’s because Mary Lane is so integrated with Baystate Health that I knew I had people in Springfield — in radiology, in laboratory, and in the sleep program — that I could call at a moment’s notice to help me through any challenges that came up.”

He describes his work as purely administrative, with the clinical link being the supervisors, or the “wheels on the ground,” as he called them, running each specific department. “They’re the ones managing most of the day-to-day clinical issues.”

When asked about what a day in his new life is like, Mullin said this is much more of a 24/7 position than his previous work; now, as then, he carries a beeper. There are more meetings, obviously, both within the Mary Lane operation, and the Baystate system. Mullin appreciates the latter, because there is a sharing of ideas that can benefit his facility and all others under the Baystate umbrella.

“You can share information about what works at your place, and they share information about what works at theirs,” he explained. “We’re always refining the way we deliver services here at Mary Lane.”

And Mullin says the learning process never ends.

“I’m still learning every day,” he said. “There are many facets to this position, and there is a lot involved with each of those patient-care areas. You’ll learn different ways of doing your job and how you can help your techs do their job every day.”

The Bottom Line

When asked if he had to write the press release for his own promotion a year ago, Mullin laughed and said that responsibility fell elsewhere.

He already had new responsibilities and a new job to learn and do.

His father had told him that, if he wanted something in life, then he should just do it. This was something he wanted, and he did it.

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