BENNINGTON, VT—August 4, 2015— Every September, Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) presents the Vision Awards at the Harvest Ball, an event sponsored by the SVHC Foundation. The ball will take place on Saturday, September 12 at the 1768 Hubbell Homestead at Colgate Park.
This year, SVHC will honor two individuals, a physician and a community member, for their efforts to advance the health system’s vision of healthier communities. The honoree for SVHC’s 2015 Health Care Leadership Award is Richard "Dick" Guerrero, MD. Roby Harrington, III is the recipient of SVHC’s 2015 Distinguished Community Service Award.
“Dr. Guerrero and Mr. Harrington are truly deserving of these honors,” said Thomas A. Dee, FACHE, president and CEO of SVHC. “Both men use their extensive experience to help guide this organization and this community through complex times toward an even healthier future. We are truly grateful for their contributions.”
Richard Guerrero, MD is the 2015 Health Care Leadership Honoree.
Throughout his more than 40 years of service to Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Dr. Guerrero has served in many positions. In addition to working a private practice based mostly at the hospital, he was—at different times—the head of the Intensive Care Unit, chief of Cardiology, chairman of the department of medicine, and president of the medical staff.
When he retired, he joined the health system’s board of directors. He served for 10 years, the last two as chair, where he helped guide SVHC through a financial crisis.
“During that time, board members—all of whom were successful in their own businesses and fields—learned a lot about how to oversee a complex healthcare organization,” Dr. Guererro said.
Dr. Guerrero was raised in Massachusetts and attended Boston University for a year before joining the Air Force, where he trained as a navigator and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant at the age of 20 and later a captain. He served in a Strategic Air Command air refueling squadron for nearly three years before returning to college at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and then Cornell University Medical College in New York City.
He married Patricia "Pat" Lubesco in 1964. He did a residency and fellowship at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
Throughout the years, the business and delivery of medicine went through tremendous changes.
“The senior doctors, when I started in 1969, had begun practice in the ‘40s. Almost everyone was in private practice. If someone had a heart attack you sent them to bed for two or three weeks and hoped for the best,” Dr. Guererro explained. “Now patients board a helicopter to Albany for catheterization and go home in a few days.”
Notable changes within his career include the introduction of Medicare, a shift from private practice to hospital-employed physicians, a coordinated focus on patient safety, the electronic medical record, and the partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. All of the changes have been positive, according to Guerrero.
In 1999, The Institute of Medicine issued a landmark report, To Err Is Human, which reported as many as 98,000 deaths occur annually due to errors in hospitals. While many in the field questioned the validity of the report, SVHC—under the leadership of Dr. Guerrero, Dr. Robert Pezzulich, and others—took it as a call to action.
“In the past, patients got infections and other complications. It was accepted as a part of normal medical care. With this report, we began to look more closely at preventing these things,” Dr. Guerrero said. “Multiply that by 5,000 hospitals around the country. You save many lives. You prevent much suffering. It was a remarkable shift in the culture of medicine.”
Dr. Guerrero was appointed by Governor Jim Douglas to serve on the Vermont Board of Medical Practice. In that role, he worked to investigate complaints against physicians. Later, while on the SVHC Board, Dr. Guerrero served on the hospital Patient Safety Committee. The health system’s annual award for patient safety is named for him.
As a physician, Dr. Guerrero enjoyed the clinical challenges. But what he enjoyed most in his work were his colleagues. He notes Dr. Richard Dundas, who joined his practice on Dewey Street in Bennington in 1973.
“Our clinical approach, our commitment, and our capacity for work were similar. We had a great relationship all those years,” Dr. Guerrero said.
Dr. Scott Rogge joined the practice in 1994. Dr. Rogge was among those who nominated Dr. Guerrero.
“Dr. Guerrero’s work ethic and his empathy for his patients was incredible. He was a true all-around excellent doctor,” said Dr. Rogge. “There are new doctors and staff here that have no way of knowing the people who worked so diligently to make this health system what it is,” Dr. Rogge continued. “This award is important, because it allows us to acknowledge Dr. Guerrero and others like him and inspire the next generation of leaders in health care.”
Dr. Guerrero and his wife have two daughters and three grandchildren. He and Pat live in Bennington, Vt., where he enjoys carpentry, gardening and exercise. When he was younger, he enjoyed sailing at Lake George and cross country skiing. He is the chair of the Board of Trustees at the Old First Church in Bennington.
Roby Harrington III is the 2015 Vision Award honoree for Distinguished Community Service.
Harrington was educated at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, Conn. and later served as chairman of its Board of Trustees. He was awarded his college degree from Princeton University in 1951 and later served the university in various roles. He served as a Marine officer during the Korean War and ended his tour on the staff of Major General Vernon Magee, commanding general, Airfleet Marine Force, Pacific.
He began his business career at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati in brand management. He joined Young & Rubicam, the international advertising agency in 1961. After 31 years, he retired as chairman of the United States company and was also a member of its Board of Directors.
Among his most treasured accomplishments are his 63-year marriage to Carol Whitney Harrington, four successful children, and ten grandchildren. He also notes, “I am blessed with many wonderful friends.”
In addition to mentoring his own children and grandchildren, Harrington has found great satisfaction in working with young people, guiding them, and seeing them have prosperous careers of their own.
“Working with young people has had many rewards for me, as I watched so many of them grow and develop successful, meaningful lives” he said.
Among the areas that have filled his philanthropic life include health care, education, and the arts. The health care organizations the Harringtons support include Southwestern Vermont Health Care and Dartmouth-Hitchcock. He credits Southwestern Vermont Health Care and Dartmouth-Hitchcock for saving his wife’s life in 2008.
“We, as well as the entire Northshire, are blessed to have world-class health care readily available through SVHC and Dartmouth-Hitchcock,” he said.
Stan Stroup was among those who nominated Mr. Harrington for the honor. "Roby is a champion of the cause of bringing high quality healthcare to our community. His commitment is exemplified by his enthusiastic participation in the work of the SVHC Foundation."
Susan Hunter also nominated Harrington. “Roby has been working very hard for the past several years spreading the good news about the changes taking place at SVMC and building support for the work of the organization from residents of the greater Manchester and Dorset areas.”
The Harrington family support the schools they attended in addition to several educational institutions, including Miss Hall’s School, Pine Cobble School, Maple Street School, and Long Trail School, on whose board he also served. They support the Manchester Community Library and Hildene and arts institutions, including the Dorset Theater, the Manchester Music Festival and The Clark Art Institute. In addition, Harrington served as a long-time trustee of both the Southern Vermont Arts Center and Dorset Theater Festival.
Of the organizations the Harringtons support, he says, “Clearly we must aid in providing world-class health care to all our neighbors, as we are now doing with the Southwestern Vermont Health Care and Dartmouth-Hitchcock partnership. Beyond that, we support the arts and education, as proper exposure to both produces well-rounded and productive citizens.”
Harrington is an avid golfer, voracious reader, and happy traveler, but most of all, a proud grandfather. He and his wife divide their time between Manchester Village, Vt. and Boca Grande, Fla.
“Dr. Guerrero and Roby are excellent honorees for these prestigious awards,” said David Meiselman, chair of the SVHC Board of Trustees. “We hope others will look to them as examples of the types of people that make SVHC the values-driven organization that it is.”
Both Harrington and Dr. Guerrero will be honored at the Sixth Annual Harvest Ball on Saturday, September 12 at the 1768 Hubbell Homestead at Colgate Park. All proceeds will benefit the health system. For tickets or more information, contact the foundation office at 802-447-5017.