EASTON — Patti K. Willis, senior vice president, Strategy and Communications for University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, will retire from her career in health care on July 3, hospital officials have announced.
Willis’ departure from the regional health care system caps a career in public relations and strategy of more than four decades that began at Chesapeake College, where she served eight years as the College’s public information coordinator. In August, 1985 she joined Memorial Hospital at Easton as director of communications, was promoted to assistant vice president, Public Affairs in 1989 and vice president in 1993. In 2006, when Shore Health System affiliated with the Maryland Medical System, Willis became vice president, Corporate Communications. In 2011, she was promoted to senior vice president, Strategy and Communications.
“Patti has been one of the cornerstones in the chronology of Memorial Hospital and Shore Health and our evolution to University of Maryland Shore Regional Health,” UM SRH president and CEO Ken Kozel said. “She is held in highest regard by all and will be sorely missed. Her insightful contributions, her attention to detail and her command of the English language are among the many attributes which make her an effective leader, a great colleague and a true friend. She has given her heart and soul to health care for the Eastern Shore and leaves an unsurpassed legacy that was just shy of 35 years in the making. On behalf of the Board and everyone at Shore Regional Health, I share our gratitude for all she has done to improve the lives of so many, and we wish her well as she begins the next chapter of her life.”
“I first met Patti at a Memorial Hospital Association meeting some 35-plus years ago. I remember her as friendly, easy to talk with and unable to hide her enthusiasm for the hospital,” UM SRH Board of Directors Chairman Keith McMahan said. “Through all the growth and expansion of what is today’s University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, I can’t think of anyone who has made a greater personal commitment to our health care system, her fellow employees and all the many communities we serve. I join with my fellow Board members and the entire system in sincerely thanking Patti for her tremendous contributions and wising her the very best for the future.”
Throughout her career, Willis has been an active participant in the professional health care community and in a host of nonprofit, business and service organizations in the region served by UM Shore Regional Health. She has been a senior member of the American Society for Health Strategy and Market Development, and member of the Maryland Society of Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations, where she served as president in 1995. Long active in the Rotary Club of Easton, Willis served as president of the organization in 2012. Her board memberships have included the Maryland, Caroline, Kent and Talbot Chambers of Commerce; Talbot Hospice Foundation and Hospice of Queen Anne’s; Talbot YMCA, Waterfowl Festival, the Neighborhood Service Center Inc.; and the Shore Leadership Alumni Association, which she led as president for two years. She also served on the Parish Education Accreditation Council for Saints Peter and Paul Parish.
“When I think about how Shore Regional Health has changed over the years and gotten to where it is today, I have to think of Patti Willis,” UM SRH Board of Directors Vice Chair Richard Loeffler said. “Patti has been with the System over 30 years helping to change and improve the services we provide patients. In her role as vice president, Strategy and Communications, Patti has worked to introduce new thoughts and ideas to make sure that Shore Regional Health stays patient-focused and quality-focused. Patti has managed to help keep us moving forward – I know that I will certainly miss her thoughts, input and most of all, her guidance.”
Willis has received numerous awards over the years, including the Donald E. Osborne Club Service Award presented by the Rotary Club of Easton in 2015 and the Caliber Award from the Mental Health Association in Talbot County in 2007. She also was honored by the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake as the 2011 Woman of Distinction, as Businesswoman of the Year by the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce in 2004, and was named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women in 2004.
“I have known Patti and worked with her in a variety of capacities since 1977,” State Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, said. “Her first hospital role as communications director positioned her to know the community well and also how to frame and present messages about the hospital and the health delivery system that always would instill hope and confidence in her audience. This skill has continued throughout her career — everyone could count on Patti to provide the straight scoop on the changes in the hospital and the health care delivery system. She has been our go to person.”
Reflecting on her long professional and personal association with Willis, Senator Eckardt added, “We worked together when I was a hospital Board member at Dorchester General and the Maryland Hospital Association Board with the Eastern Shore Health Planning System, the Eastern Shore AHEC and many more throughout the years. We also share the honor of being included in Maryland’s Top 100 Women for consecutive years, and usually get together to sound out and think through very complex and difficult issues. I value her friendship as she has been a model of leadership and is truly an inspiration. Patti has served her community and Shore Regional Health well, and has certainly earned her retirement.”
A lifelong resident of the Mid-Shore, Willis grew up in Centreville. She is a graduate of Queen Anne’s County High School and earned a B.A. in English from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and a Master of Arts from the Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. She is a resident of St. Michaels where she and her husband Craig raised their family.
Reflecting on her deep roots in the region and her career in health care, Willis expressed her great appreciation for the rural landscape, the region’s small-town, close-knit quality of life, and the generous community that has supported the development of the health care system.
“I’ve been very blessed to be able to learn from and serve so many smart people – from our Shore Regional Health Board members, my fellow leaders and managers in the system, and my team members in marketing, communications and community outreach,” she said. “In these last several years, it’s been both exciting and gratifying to be part of the process of creating a new and more complex health care entity while respecting the uniqueness of its individual parts and the needs within each of our five counties.”