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Former Phoebe CEO Honored by Georgia Hospital Association


Recently-retired Phoebe President & CEO Joel Wernick was honored Thursday morning by the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) at the 2019 GHA Annual Summer Meeting in Amelia Island, FL.  Wernick was presented the W. Daniel Barker Leadership Award which recognizes a hospital or health system administrator or CEO who has made outstanding contributions to Georgia’s healthcare community.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Joel,” said Lem Griffin, Phoebe Putney Health System Board Chairman.  “He is a true visionary who transformed the delivery of healthcare throughout southwest Georgia by improving facilities and technology, expanding access to primary care and bringing specialty services to our area that folks used to have to travel long distances to receive.”

The award is based on a nominee’s leadership, innovation, commitment to improving healthcare in Georgia and record of advancing care.  “I’m humbled by this recognition, and I am grateful to the GHA, not only for their effort to bring attention to my years of service at Phoebe, but most especially for the organization’s tireless efforts to support Georgia hospitals and improve the level of care we are able to provide to the citizens of our great state,” Wernick said.

Wernick officially retired from Phoebe in May after 31 years of service as the system’s top executive.  Under his leadership, Phoebe grew from one community hospital in Albany to a large regional system that includes four hospitals and more than 40 primary and specialty care clinics in 9 counties.  Phoebe is also the region’s largest employer and one of the primary economic engines for all of southwest Georgia with an annual economic impact of more than $1.2 billion.

Wernick led the charge to create the Phoebe Family Medicine Residency program which has graduated 125 physicians in the last 26 years.  Most of them are still practicing in Georgia.  He also initiated educational partnerships that resulted in the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy opening satellite campuses at Phoebe facilities in Albany.  Wernick oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars worth of construction projects that enhanced and expanded the delivery of healthcare and improved the work environment for Phoebe employees, including:

  • Medical Towers I and II on Phoebe’s main campus
  • OR/surgery center expansions
  • ER/birthing center expansions
  • Parking garages
  • Phoebe Family Tree
  • Phoebe Northwest
  • Meredyth Place
  • Phoebe Sumter
  • Phoebe Healthworks
  • Willson Hospice House
  • Flaggstone housing community for students and physician residents

Scott Steiner took over as Phoebe’s President & CEO in March.  “When I came to Phoebe, I was amazed at the facilities and the quality and breadth of services available to the people of southwest Georgia through Phoebe.  It is extremely unusual for a region with the population and economic challenges of ours to have a health system that is as comprehensive and cutting-edge as Phoebe.  Phoebe’s scope of services and level of care are great testaments to Joel, and the Phoebe Family will continue to work hard every day to build on his legacy,” Steiner said.

GHA is a nonprofit trade association made up of member health systems, hospitals and individuals.  It was founded in 1929 and serves 173 hospitals in Georgia.  The GHA has presented the W. Daniel Barker Leadership Award, named for a professor emeritus in the Department of Community Health at the Emory University School of Medicine, annually since 1998.