Reflections of a CEO

Punxsutawney Area Hospital and Rural Health Care
Mr. Blough

Mr. Daniel Blough has been a fixture of the Punxsutawney Area Hospital for more than 40 years and retired effective September 9th.  Mr. Blough and his colleagues were asked to reflect on his many years of service spent at PAH and his time devoted to the health care industry in our community. “Being a rural hospital, there are many challenges that are uniquely faced and obstacles to overcome, our community has been privileged to have the guidance and wisdom of a man that devoted his entire career to the wellbeing of our community. Having worked for Mr. Blough for almost four decades as Chief Financial Officer and part of the executive leadership team, I can say that we have been fortunate to have had a leader who has never lost sight of our charitable mission while navigating a constantly changing healthcare environment.  I am humbled to even attempt to follow such an honorable man”, stated Jack Sisk, CFO and newly named incoming President of the Punxsutawney Area Hospital.
When arriving to Punxsutawney as a Penn State student intern in 1977, Blough assisted in the planning and organizing the Punxsutawney Area Community Health Center which is now a part of the Primary Health Care Network. Mr. Blough soon became the manager of the local practice site and later others in Rural Valley, Patton, and Barnesboro.  A few years later after working with the local medical community and the Punxsutawney Area Hospital Board of Directors, an unexpected vacancy in leadership occurred at the brand-new hospital facility. The Board chairman at the time asked him if he would consider helping out on an interim basis while they conducted a search for a new CEO, an exceptional opportunity for a 25-year-old. He eventually won the job on a permanent basis. As the saying goes, the rest is history. I have loved this hospital, the staff, the town and its people”. His hope after forty years is that he might someday overhear someone on the street say “He was a local and did a great job for our community”.  Dr. Clark Simpson, Director of Medical Staff Affairs commented, “I have made this hospital my life’s mission. That is an incredibly powerful statement I have heard from Mr. Blough on many occasions. I only hope that I can live up to his words. My responsibility is to keep 425+ employees working, keep a full-service hospital in Punxsutawney and do what we do, well.”

When looking back on being a young executive and what he might have done differently, Blough would offer the advice to himself to spend more time out of the solace of his office and get to know the staff better and affirm their daily efforts. “The Punxsutawney Area Hospital is a nationally ranked Top 20 Rural and Community Hospital because of the amazing work they do, not me.  Blough was honored to be selected as the Pennsylvania 2014 Rural Health Care Leader of the Year and served the greater Pennsylvania Hospital community as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania and as an appointed trustee of the Board of Directors of the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania.  Locally, he helped form Jefferson EMS and the Pennsylvania Mountain Health Care Alliance, a network of regional hospitals that wanted to stay independent but realized change was coming and would be better off by working collaboratively to improve health care in surrounding regional communities. “Great local health care is a driver of a good local economy and it was always my objective to assure that Punxsutawney Area Hospital has been preserved and improved continuously here. I hope to stay involved locally after retirement supporting PAH where possible” stated Mr. Blough.
Reflecting on his years at the Punxsutawney Area Hospital, it would be remiss to not mention the Covid-19 Pandemic. “The 2020-2022 pandemic was a perhaps one of the more significant career events for me and a contributing factor as to why I postponed my retirement by a year.  It required whole house reorganization. Our superb medical staff and nursing and other leaders truly rose to the occasion and met the daily challenges.  Mandatory masking of staff and visitors, daily anxiety about the availability of supplies to care for patients and to keep employees safe, healthcare worker mandatory vaccinations, and restricting patient visitors from campus were all novel developments to be managed.  “The Covid -19 related deaths of my good neighbor and fine man and several beloved health care workers, and daily worries about countless other employees and doctors who despite precautions still got very, very sick due to COVID infection were the real pain points for me.”   The Punxsutawney Area Hospital and its leadership learned a lot and is a stronger organization today as every organizational crisis always points out opportunities to improve.
Many people may be curious what will happen to the Punxsutawney Area Hospital as Blough departs.   Blough stated he is confident that the Punxsutawney Area Hospital will continue to provide high quality, cost effective health care for patients; a major employer and a viable part of the community for decades to come and is well positioned with great staff, clinician’s technology and experienced leaders who will continue to move the organization forward.  “As the President of the Medical Staff, I have had the privilege of working closely with Mr. Blough for many years. He has taught the staff to embrace the value of life and to treat each patient with equal dignity, respect and compassion. As leadership, we will continue to support the strong work ethic he has instilled in the staff and promote a sense of empowerment throughout the organization”, commented Dr. Phil States. When thinking about the future and what he is looking forward to the most, Blough simply stated that he is excited to spend more time with his family and never again cut grass or rake leaves in moonlight or for that matter, on Sundays after church”.
“On behalf of the community, thank you for your many years of service and dedication to PAH, the patients, and community of Punxsutawney” commented Katie Laska, Chamber of Commerce President.