“I think there’s a special connection about running a small hospital in such a close-knit community,” begins Ruth Glaser, active President of Pender Memorial Hospital. “People come in to get treated and they’re not just a patient, they’re your neighbor, a member of your church congregation, or someone your kid plays ball with; the kind of attention and care towards our own community is something really special that you just don’t get anywhere else.”
Officially opening its doors on May 1, 1951, Pender Memorial Hospital was formally dedicated to, “The memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice for freedom in World Wars I and II.” The story behind its origin is truly one of community, and community remains to be the key to its success since. It was the citizens of the Pender community that led the crusade in making the hospital a reality — banding together for their historical vote on December 11, 1948 to pay one-fourth of the costs for the hospital. Sixty-eight years later, the enlarged hospital is not just a reality, but the powerhouse of a medical community that serves as an emergency department and skilled nursing facility, caring for almost 18,000 patients a year.
Dr. Heather Davis, active Chief of Staff and Chief Medical Officer, finds that in her line of work as a Family Physician, Pender Memorial was the perfect fit. “There’s a connection between all of the local services and resources that allows you to see how everyone is just supporting each other. When you keep your services here, you’re able to take care of the whole community, and in turn, the whole family,” Dr. Davis reveals. “It’s the philosophy of the medicine I practice. A philosophy this community enables.”
After finishing her residency at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Dr. Davis filled a vacancy at a physician practice. The position would also require periodic hospitalist coverage, and inevitably be her introduction to Pender Memorial. Dr. Davis hadn’t been there long when Glaser came aboard as President; recognizing they shared the same vision of taking care of small communities, the pair set out to do just that. “Little by little, we started looking and seeing that there was a lot of opportunity to improve the quality of care and the access to care for people in this community,” recalls Dr. Davis. “Knowing that we had this potential connection to bring more and more from NHRMC, and to utilize those resources that we already had, we decided to build on it — we had a vision and a dream, so we just made it happen. It’s been a really incredible journey.”
Redefining what it means to be a ‘small-town hospital’, with just under 200 employees, Pender Memorial has become a gem of a resource to its community; especially with the help it has received from NHRMC. One of their biggest contributions has been coordinated care; President Glaser points out, “Whether the patient is suffering from CHF, A-Fib, or has a stroke — it’s using those same protocols. All of these things we’re doing are in tandem with what’s happening at NHRMC, with their 7,000 employees. It’s those resources, just the breath and depth of knowledge and expertise that exists, you can’t replicate that. So, the majority of all our physicians now are either trained at, or also work at NHRMC.”
While Pender Memorial may not be equipped for extensive specialized surgeries like NHRMC, Dr. Davis touches on the benefits of using the two hospitals as a combination, explaining, “After patients get evaluated in our emergency room, they can go to Wilmington to get that specialty care, then come back here for their rehab. You hear so many great things from so many families. How lucky they feel and how happy they are to come back and still have that connection to Wilmington if they need it, but to be able to get the services and necessary level of care here at home.”