The new president of Carney Hospital is a 41 year-old native Floridian who grew up in a two traffic light town and was the point guard for his high school and college basketball teams.
Andrew Davis has long since traded in his high top sneakers for wingtips. But he and his 6-foot-7 frame have been engaged in something of a full-court press in Dot and Mattapan since he took the helm at the Carney on May 7. Davis has been spotted at the First Parish Church banquet, the Mother’s Walk for Peace and in a Lower Mills village meeting with merchants.
And when he marched up the avenue alongside Carney’s float in Sunday’s Dot Day parade, he was seen pressing the flesh like a candidate for the US Senate.
It’s that energy and willingness to put himself out there as the face of the hospital that Davis thinks will help him lead the Dot Ave. facility into the future.
“I love being able to take an organization and push the people and myself to believe in a higher mission,” Davis told the Reporter in an interview recently. “And to promote that ideal that although we may be at this place at this moment, that we’ll be at a better place at another moment.”
Davis came of age in small-town Bonifay, Florida in the 1980s, where his mother was a schoolteacher and his father a retired command sergeant major-turned-minister. The tight-knit nature of the deep-south lifestyle impressed upon Davis and his older sister a certain core set of values that he says remains his touchstone.
“I look at myself as a very positive individual,” Davis says. “Watching my parents, they were very committed and very involved in church and youth activities.”
Davis was a three-year letterman at Graceville High— where his mom taught— and he helped lead the team to a Division A state championship in hoops. He then went on to Alabama’s Troy State University, where he similarly helped the basketball squad make it to the Division 2 NCAA finals in Springfield, MA. Troy was also where he met his wife Sonya and where he earned an undergrad degree in accounting— his chosen field.
After next earning his public accounting certificate, Davis cut his teeth in the health care field working as an auditor in Pensecola. In 1998, he joined Baptist Health Care and began transitioning into the role of hospital administrator. He has led two community hospitals thus far— including a 75 bed hospital in Hamlet, North Carolina and, most recently, a 140 bed hospital in Statesville, NC.
He joined Steward Health Care — the corporate owners of Carney since 2010— earlier this year and leapt at the chance to run an urban teaching hospital, even if it meant a big move north with his wife and 15 year-old daughter.
“This one attracted me for several different reasons: the opportunity to come to a hospital with a 150 year history— next year we’ll celebrate 150 years at the Carney— that’s a big deal,” Davis said. “It was teaching hospital and it gave me the opportunity to be on leading edge of the accountable care organization movement throughout the country.”
Dorchester’s demographics also appealed to him.
“The makeup of Dorchester being as multicultural as it is was another avenue to be able to touch people from all different backgrounds. That was enticing to me,” said Davis. “I’ve always been in community hospitals that needed good sound leadership and principles. I’ve always believe that you can get your health care close to home and that will help your community. I wanted to be part of a community that would do that.”
Davis said that his five years as the hospital CEO in Hamlet, NC presented a tough test of his leadership skills.
“People wanted someone who would stay and I felt like the hospital needed me to infuse some energy and be a good community hospital. It sounds very similar to the Carney,” Davis said. “Hamlet and Richmond County became home for us. We built better brand recognition, the volume improved and we grew the number of beds.”
Carney will no doubt be Davis’ biggest professional challenge to date. The last Carney president— health center legend and Savin Hill resident Bill Walczak— was dispatched as president by Steward’s brass after just over one year in office, a discordant departure that cast a pall of anxiety over the hospital and the larger community.
Davis has been careful to show respect for Walczak’s profile in Dorchester, where he is highly regarded as a civic and health pioneer. Davis instead has focused on what he needs to do next to promote the hospital and stabilize it financially.
“What I see in the Carney over the last three weeks goes back to the passion. Everyone wants it to be successful,” said Davis. “How we do that: we have to focus and be very attuned to taking care of the patient one patient at a time. As big as Dorchester is, it’s a very small place. And word of mouth is still the best marketing. And what we want to do is give every patient the best outcome and experience that we can. If we do that from the inside that’s going to resonate to our community and people who come here.”
Davis says he’s committed to building on one of Walczak’s key initiatives: the creation of a family medicine department led by Dr. Glenn O’Grady, a well-respected practitioner who was recruited to bring in new primary care talent focused on family care. But Davis also sees the need to beef up other niche positions on the medical staff.
“Our emergency services are a big component of what we do here and I feel strongly that we can continue to enhance our ER by adding additional specialists to support them so we don’t have to transfer patients to other places,” Davis said. “Our E.R, has 30,000 visits in a year and each year its grown between 2-4 percent.
We have to recruit additional specialists. That is how the Carney is going to grow. We have three state of the art [operating rooms] that have just started and having that as a plus where we can offer the physicians a great place to practice medicine.”
“So far that’s still the mission, to be an acute care hospital,” Davis added. “We’re going to be an acute care hospital. There are many things we do very well at the Carney. We have wonderful outcomes. If you look at our data, it’s some of the best. We just have to continue get the word out.”