CUMBERLAND — A job that began processing bedpans will soon end a nearly five-decade career in the health care industry.
UPMC Western Maryland president Barry P. Ronan will retire in March.
He plans to join Pamela, his wife of 44 years, in Charleston, South Carolina, to be close to their family.
The couple have two daughters and a grandson.
“This community is going to be in very good hands after I leave,” he said Wednesday.
“UPMC … truly (has) the best interest of this community in mind.”
Ronan began his career as an equipment orderly at Pittsburgh’s Presbyterian University Hospital, now UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, the flagship hospital of the health care system.
After progressing through several increasingly responsible leadership positions there over 11 years, he joined Allegheny General Hospital where he spent the next three years.
Ronan served as president and CEO of the local health system from 2000 until earlier this year.
In February, he became president of UPMC Western Maryland.
Throughout his more than 30 years in Western Maryland, Ronan served on numerous boards, committees and commissions locally and statewide.
He is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, and members of Allegany College of Maryland’s Board of Trustees, and the Cumberland Economic Development Corporation.
Work is underway to find his successor.
Ronan said he will ensure a seamless and successful transition for the new UPMC Western Maryland president.
Challenging events during his career included the 1996 consolidation of Memorial and Sacred Heart campuses to form the Western Maryland Health System, a new state-of-the-art medical center, in 2009.
“Folks were looking at it as a winner and loser kind of situation,” he said.
And then came the novel coronavirus.
“The whole pandemic … is something that I’ve never experienced,” he said. “We are still averaging about six patients a day in the hospital being treated for COVID-19.”
Among his most rewarding career experiences was the merger of the Western Maryland Health System into the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospital network.
“That’s going to be absolutely wonderful for this community now certainly and going forward,” Ronan said.
UPMC Western Maryland is the region’s largest employer and contributes more than $300 million annually to the economy.
Ronan said accomplishments happened because of the hospital system’s visionary board of directors.
He’ll miss folks he’s gotten to know in the area.
“I love the people with whom I work, from our board members to our medical staff to our employees,” Ronan said. “Being here 30 years, you have so many just wonderful cherished memories of working with these people and some of the things that they do on a day-in and day-out basis is just amazing.”
Ronan’s influence in the community “has made a huge difference,” said Kim Leonard, UPMC Western Maryland board member and former chairperson.
“He has provided 30 years of leadership over so many hardworking staff members,” Leonard said via email. “I hear that all the time.”
The overall health of the community has been the biggest beneficiary, he said.
“(Ronan’s) guidance all these years has made us what we are today, and that, more than anything, is the most important part,” Leonard said.
Dr. John Pappas, who serves as president of the UPMC Western Maryland medical staff and on the board of directors, said Ronan has left a long-lasting legacy in the community.
“I want to emphasize that (Ronan’s) selfless dedication and visionary leadership have ensured that every resident in this community will have access to quality care in a long-term sustainable way,” Pappas said via email.
“On a personal note, I have worked with Barry over the past 15 years and I can say that he is one of the most approachable and empathetic health care executives I know,” Pappas said. “He made it a point to get to know most of the 2000+ employees at UPMC Western Maryland as well as the medical staff. We are currently interviewing candidates to fill his big shoes, but the community, medical staff, and employees of UPMC Western Maryland should rest assured that those shoes are pointed in the right direction.”