By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
HUDSON — New leadership will take the helm of Columbia Memorial Health at the start of 2023.
Current president and CEO Jay Cahalan announced his retirement at the end of this year. Cahalan has led the organization since 2013.
Dr. Dorothy Urschel, the present chief operating officer, will take over as the new president and CEO beginning Jan. 1. She was appointed by the boards of Albany Med Health System and Columbia Memorial Health.
“Dorothy’s demonstrated leadership in patient care, administration and system integration position her perfectly to lead our Columbia Memorial division,” said Dennis P. McKenna, MD, president and CEO of Albany Med Health System. “She possesses deep, experiential knowledge of every aspect of the operation. I look forward to working more closely with Dorothy and her team as we continue to advance health care in our region, building connections between the hospitals and clinics within our system, and solidifying our future as the provider of choice in every community we serve.”
While serving as the head of CMH for the past nine years, Cahalan expanded the services and footprint of Columbia Memorial Health in Greene, Columbia and Dutchess counties, developing a network of community-based primary and multispecialty providers, in addition to hospital-based services, according to a statement from Albany Medical Center.
Columbia Memorial Health has been affiliated with Albany Medical Center since 2016, when the current Albany Med Health System was formed.
Under Cahalan’s leadership, the organization acquired the Greene Medical Arts Center building in Catskill and added physician practices in Coxsackie, Cairo, Catskill and Tannersville. He also contributed to major additions to the hospital’s Hudson campus, including the construction of the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation Medical Office Building and the hospital’s Kneller wing.
“The needs of our patients drove every decision we made,” Cahalan said. “My greatest privilege has been serving this community alongside incredible colleagues who have inspired me every day. I sincerely thank the people of our community for their trust in Columbia Memorial Health, and our dedicated team of professionals whose compassionate quality care has improved countless lives.”
Cahalan joined CMH in 1994 and served as its chief operating officer for 18 years before being named president and CEO in 2013.
“Jay and his team strengthened access to health care and broadened the scope of services CMH provides,” said CMH board of trustees chairman Kirk Kneller. “In this way, he has made an indelible impact on the very health of our communities. Our region is fortunate to have benefitted from Jay’s leadership, which has established CMH as a steadfast partner in the lives of all our neighbors.”
Dr. Urschel will take over leadership of CMH, overseeing the 192-bed hospital in Hudson and more than 40 primary and specialty care centers, according to Albany Med. She began her career as a critical care nurse and thoracic surgery nurse practitioner, and worked as an acute care cardiac surgery nurse practitioner. She joined St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, serving as vice president of cardiac and vascular services, and as vice president of operations and chief nursing officer for Albany Memorial Hospital.
She joined CMH in 2020 as chief operating officer.
“Dorothy’s demonstrated leadership in patient care, administration, and system integration position her perfectly to lead our Columbia Memorial division,” said Dennis P. McKenna, MD, president and CEO of the Albany Med Health System. “She possesses deep, experiential knowledge of every aspect of the operation. I look forward to working more closely with Dorothy and her team as we continue to advance health care in our region, building connections between the hospitals and clinics within our system, and solidifying our future as the provider of choice in every community we serve.”
Dr. Urschel said her first priorities as she takes the CMH helm will be to provide patient-centered care.
“Health care is about the holistic treatment of every individual, and our team is dedicated to that approach,” Dr. Urschel said. “Since 1889, CMH has been a pillar of our community. Our culture is rooted in a rich history and deep values. I am honored to lead my colleagues as we embrace the future of health care, innovating dynamically to meet the needs of our patients.”
Robert Cushing, chairman of the Albany Med Health System board of directors, thanked Cahalan for his years of service and said he looked forward to Dr. Urschel’s leadership in the future.
“We thank Jay for nearly three decades of selfless service to the Columbia Memorial community,” Cushing said. “His vision to elevate health care led us together, and as our first system partner, his influence will be felt across our region for years to come. I am confident that Dorothy will continue to build upon the strong foundation CMH holds. Her expertise and passion are invaluable assets to the 100,000 people CMH serves.”
By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
DURHAM — Three of the five remaining members of the Durham Historic Preservation Commission resigned their posts after the town’s decision not to reappoint commission chairman Patrick Ciccone.
Ciccone has been an outspoken critic of the controversial Bosque housing development that would build 12 homes and a barn and related facilities in the vicinity of Strong Road. The site falls within the town’s historic district.
Ciccone said he believes the decision not to reappoint him was directly tied to a letter from the group finding that the development would have significant impacts on the town’s historic district.
“I believe it was purely in retaliation for us doing our jobs and I think that the three other commission members who resigned recognized that immediately,” Ciccone said Monday.
The three commission members who stepped down from their posts effective March 4 were Ellen Fried, Rosemary O’Brien and Ken Mabey.
“We are dismayed that the town board did not make any effort to understand the commission’s unanimous findings regarding the proposed Bosque development and/or to engage in dialogue that could have satisfied our concerns and paved the way for this project to move forward with consensus in the Cornwallville Historic District,” according to the letter submitted jointly by Fried, O’Brien and Mabey.
The three commission members said the town failed to communicate with the group about Ciccone’s dismissal.
“We believe contempt for the commission was fully exposed when its chairperson, a professional historic preservationist with seven years on the commission, was dismissed without warning or explanation of any kind; and without even some minimal communication with the five remaining members of the commission, either before or since the dismissal took place,” according to the letter.
Ciccone has been the commission’s chairman since 2018 and served as a member since early 2016.
At the March 1 meeting of the town board, Town Supervisor Shawn Marriott confirmed Ciccone would not be reappointed but declined to discuss the issue further.
“I can confirm that Patrick [Ciccone] was not reappointed, but we do not discuss personnel matters with the public,” Marriott said.
Attorney Jan Perlin challenged the commission chairman’s classification as a town employee.
“It’s not a personnel matter — he is a member of a public commission,” Perlin said at the March 1 meeting. “I don’t see how it’s a personnel matter.”
Town attorney Tal Rappleyea reiterated Marriott’s statement that the commission chairman is an employee and personnel matters cannot be discussed by the board in public.
“It is very much a personnel matter. That’s all there is to it,” Rappleyea said.
Ciccone said Monday he was notified Feb. 27 that he would not be reappointed.
“[Marriott] handed me the letter, which was undated, saying that I was not being reappointed because I was a holdover appointment,” Ciccone said. “Whether that is even true, I don’t believe for a second that that was what it was all about.”
The former commission chairman contended he is not a town employee.
“I am an appointed expert, I am not an employee,” Ciccone said. “I am happy for him to discuss it in public — he can say he didn’t reappoint me because he didn’t like what we were doing. He is allowed to do that.”
The commission chairman and members are unpaid.
The town of Durham is unique in that there is a historic preservation commission, but no planning or zoning board — the town board oversees those matters directly. The commission was established in 1990 in an agreement between the town and the state, Ciccone said.
“It’s a certified local government [program] between the town of Durham and the state of New York,” Ciccone said.
Certified Local Government programs are administered by the State Historic Preservation Office and allow municipalities to partner with the state and federal governments to identify and evaluate community resources and protect historic properties, according to the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
“There are reciprocal requirements on both sides, so the state is now looking at whether the town has violated its CLG agreement,” Ciccone said. “It is rare for a town the size of Durham to have a historic commission — it was a point of pride that we did.”
Ciccone said he believes he was dismissed because of the commission’s determination that the Bosque project would have significant impacts on the community and because of his extensive knowledge on the issues related to the project, which falls within the town’s historic district.
“I am a trained historic preservationist,” he said. “I work professionally as a historic preservationist and as a real estate developer. I am deeply familiar with the regulatory framework of all of this and I think that the town’s approach to the law is autocratic and improvisatory.”
“The duty of the commission is to protect the town’s historic resources,” he added. “It would be absurd to think that anyone part of that would just say OK, I am going to stand by blindly while the town ignores this. The other commission members who resigned obviously felt the same way.”
The next meeting of the town board will be March 15.