MCG Hospital leader Pat Sodomka dies

Friday, Feb. 19, 2010 9:35 AM
Last updated Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 1:38 AM
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An internationally recognized advocate for patients and families in health care, longtime hospital executive Patricia Sodomka died early this morning at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, which she once ran. She was 60.

Patricia Sodomka: Longtime hospital executive died early Friday after a four-year battle with  breast cancer.  File/Staff
File/Staff
Patricia Sodomka: Longtime hospital executive died early Friday after a four-year battle with breast cancer.

Sodomka was diagnosed four years ago with breast cancer that had already advanced to nearby lymph nodes, according to an account her husband, Dennis, posted to her CarePages site. After extensive treatment, the cancer came back 18 months later. She fought through extensive bouts of radiation and chemotherapy before a large tumor was discovered in her arm in January. She checked into the hospital about a week ago for the final time.

Sodomka is survived by numerous family, including her husband, her daughter, Mary Ellen Lewis, and her son, Michael.

Her grave illness came up Thursday at the Association of American Medical Colleges Board of Directors meeting in Washington, D.C., said its president and CEO, Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, a former dean of the School of Medicine at MCG and a longtime friend of Sodomka.

"Many people around the table were expressing their sadness about Pat's illness because of the high regard they have for her," Kirch said. "I think most people in the Augusta community probably do not know that she is a highly regarded national figure in the area of bringing the patient and their family back to the center of health care."

Sodomka came to MCG in 1987 and it was while she was administrator of the Children's Medical Center in 1993, which was in the planning stages for a new hospital, that she first heard about patient- and family-centered care. Bev Johnson, president and CEO of the Institute for Family-Centered Care, still remembers that first phone call from Sodomka asking to know more about it so she could share it with staff and patients.

"And to this day, that was a style of leadership she had was the openness to the new ideas and very much the openness to partner with patients and families," Johnson said. That was the same year Sodomka also befriended the mother of a patient with severe heart problems, Daniel Moretz, and eventually persuaded her to become the first chair of the Family Advisory Council that would provide insight into how the children's hospital not only operated but was designed. The two were sitting in Daniel's room one day when they were kicked out because the clinicians were about to start rounds, Julie Ginn Moretz recalled.

"She took my hands and she looked at me, and she said, 'Julie, I know we're not there yet but I promise you one day we will be a patient- and family-centered facility. Mark my words.' " Moretz said. That was often her way - acknowledging a problem but looking forward with a positive attitude to the solution, Moretz said. The $53 million Children's Medical Center would go on to win accolades for its design and accommodation for families, from things like a trundle bed under the patients bed to make it easier for parents to stay with the child.

Sodomka went on to serve as executive director of MCG Hospital and Clinics from 1994 until the formation of MCG Health to run the clinical system in 2000, when she then became chief operating officer and then senior vice president for patient- and family-centered care. She was also the director of the Center for Patient- and Family-Centered Care at MCG. No matter how busy she was, however, she would always stop to offer comfort, and a Diet Coke and sit and listen, MCG Health Interim President and CEO Sandra I. McVicker said.

"It might only take 10 minutes or it could take an hour, but she always found time for people and helped support us in our need when she might have been the busiest or she might have been having a bad day too," she said. "But you know we never knew when Pat had a bad day."

It was that compassion that drew her to be patient- and family-focused, said Moretz, now the director of special projects for the Institute for Family-Centered Care.

"She had a unique ability to bring people together," she said. "It's OK to be nice and still be able to get things done in the health care system. She was able to use her gentleness and her resourcefulness to be able to make an impact and to really turn people's heads and make them realize, you know this is the right way to go. It is the right thing to do."

Sodomka often gave the credit for others even as she was gaining a national and then international reputation as a leader in the patient- and family-centered health care field.

"She would never accept that as her doing this alone," Moretz said. "She has just garnered so much respect because it wasn't about her. It was about doing the right thing."

But she did have wide-ranging respect, Johnson said.

"I think of her as really a national leader for advancing the practice of patient- and family-centered care," she said. "Really you could say national and international leader because people have come to our conferences and seminars to hear her and to see the kind of work that people have done collaboratively at MCG."

It was because of who she was, Johnson said.

"A quality of a leader, of an effective leader is someone who is very genuine," she said. "It is the kind of person they are. Pat's goodness just shone in everything she did."

Moretz saw that as they attended church together at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Resurrection.

"She was a very spiritual person," she said. "I can remember her just always being there. She seemed to know when you needed a hug, when you just needed someone to lean on."

Accountability was important to her, as she was founding chairwoman of the Georgia Hospital Association's Partnership for Health and Accountability to improve quality of care and patient safety. She was always encouraging patients to speak up if they had questions or saw something amiss, McVicker said.

Her work helped lead to the health system being featured in the PBS documentary Remaking American Medicine. Last year she received the 2009 Georgia Hospital Association Hospital Heroes Award as an "international ambassador for patient family centered care," the association said in announcing the award. Last summer, the Institute for Family-Centered Care came down to film a new video featuring MCG and Sodomka that should wrap up production in the next couple of months, Johnson said.

"We're thrilled that Pat will be part of that as well," she said.
But Sodomka and the change of culture she wrought will live on, McVicker said.

"That is her legacy," she said. "Her legacy is not just for us, it is for all across the United States, nationally and internationally."

"Her work will continue, no doubt about that," Moretz said. "And she will forever be remembered for her role in advancing patient- and family-centered care."

Scholarship Fund

Patricia Sodomka's family has created a scholarship fund to help others carry on her work to make health care more patient- and family-centered, the family announced on her CarePages Web site.

The Patricia Sodomka PFCC Educational Endowment will fund training, trips to conferences and other education in the field.

Checks should be made payable to the MCG Health Special Purpose Account, with a notation that it is for the Patricia Sodomka Fund.

Send checks to: Office of Philanthropy and Partnership at MCG Health Inc., 1120 15th St., BA-8219, Augusta, GA 30912.

Services

Visitation for Patricia Sodomka will be 3-5 p.m. Sunday at Thomas Poteet and Sons Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Road. Her funeral will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 825 Greene St.

Comments (26) Add comment
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Notreally
4
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Notreally 02/19/10 - 09:52 am
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Sorry to hear this, she was

Sorry to hear this, she was always nice to me and would speak whenever she saw me on campus. One of the best hospital executives to work at MCG.

Glynn Moore
13
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Glynn Moore 02/19/10 - 10:08 am
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May God bless and keep

May God bless and keep Dennis, the children and families during their time of loss.

Sean Moores
702
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Sean Moores 02/19/10 - 10:21 am
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Pat was a kind and wonderful

Pat was a kind and wonderful lady. She will be missed.
Dennis, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

devgru1
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devgru1 02/19/10 - 10:28 am
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My condolences to the family.

My condolences to the family. She was a administrator who brought a caring and common sense approach to MCG.

Steve Crawford
99
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Steve Crawford 02/19/10 - 10:47 am
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Very sad news. Many prayers

Very sad news. Many prayers will be said for Dennis and his family. You can include mine. Peace be with you.

techops
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techops 02/19/10 - 10:47 am
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A beautiful lady inside and

A beautiful lady inside and out. We shared the journey of breast cancer and would encourage each other at the functions. I will miss her smile and kindness. May God bless the family.

Mike Wynn
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Mike Wynn 02/19/10 - 11:34 am
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Pat was a wonderful lady.

Pat was a wonderful lady. Dennis, you and your family will be in my prayers.

Newsreader
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Newsreader 02/19/10 - 11:39 am
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What a wonderful tribute to a

What a wonderful tribute to a very special person. Many people have been touched by her approach to family oriented healthcare. Most of them will never know how much she poured into the change of culture it took to bring the family and patient into the care and treatment. God has blessed Mrs. Sodomka, and she used those talents well. He has now called her home, no doubt to a place of honor for her giving spirit while here on Earth. My thoughts and prayers to the family. May God bring peace and understanding to the family and comfort them in their sorrow.

charliemanson
1
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charliemanson 02/19/10 - 11:45 am
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Condolences to the Sodomka

Condolences to the Sodomka family.

750
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Barry Paschal 02/19/10 - 11:46 am
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It was nice to see Pat's name

It was nice to see Pat's name on the library at the new MCG Cancer Center. That's a great way to remember her. God bless you and your family, Dennis.

ltrace01
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ltrace01 02/19/10 - 11:47 am
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Pat has left a legacy behind

Pat has left a legacy behind and it will forever stay alive in all of the hearts of the people she touched, and the people she has yet to touch through the "Patricia Sodomka Family Resource Center" This wonderfully amazing person touched so many of us. A Phoenix , a person of peerless beauty and excellence. As I read on the update "The pain and tension left her face and her beautiful smile returned" , she is at peace. She will be greatly missed....True, her physical presence will no longer be with us, but, we and you now have a "Special Guardian Angel" .

Fiat_Lux
16445
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Fiat_Lux 02/19/10 - 12:10 pm
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What a wonderful person we

What a wonderful person we have lost, and what a legacy of goodness she left for the rest of us. It demands that we make every attempt to be better than we might otherwise be, to have had so great an example as Pat. God rest her soul and console her family.

Austin Rhodes
2999
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Austin Rhodes 02/19/10 - 12:57 pm
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Very sad news today. God

Very sad news today. God bless you Dennis, she is in a better place...

Mudfish
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Mudfish 02/19/10 - 01:01 pm
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As a patient advisor, I had

As a patient advisor, I had opportunity to work with Pat. She always would seek the patient advisors out and make them know that they were wanted and were a valuable worker along side the paid staff. She would always seek out the best for the patient and family when a new project was being considered.
I hope that MCG will use wise judgement when they start to seek someone to step into that office she leaves.
They will never replace her but I hope they find the best person for the job and not some political hack.

UrbanMeyerHater
2
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UrbanMeyerHater 02/19/10 - 01:32 pm
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Funeral Service: Monday, Feb

Funeral Service: Monday, Feb 22nd, 2:00 PM, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Greene St.. Visitation: Sunday, Feb 21st, from 3:00 until 5:00 at Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Road, Augusta.

ss30809
44
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ss30809 02/19/10 - 01:41 pm
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My condolences to the family.

My condolences to the family. This is sad news...Pat Sodomka did so much for MCG Health Inc. and MCG Children's Medical Center, and she will be missed. As an MCG employee, I did not know her personally but I do know that because of Ms. Sodomka, every project MCG builds today and in the future will have the vision of family-centered-care incorporated into its design. Thank you, Pat!

Rob Pavey
552
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Rob Pavey 02/19/10 - 01:53 pm
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Our condolences as well,

Our condolences as well, Dennis. A valiant fight well-fought. We will keep you and your family in our prayers.

Sandy Wood
0
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Sandy Wood 02/19/10 - 02:13 pm
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Dennis - our prayers are with

Dennis - our prayers are with you and your family.

Peter Buckley
0
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Peter Buckley 02/19/10 - 02:24 pm
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We lost a dear friend and

We lost a dear friend and wonderful colleague today. Pat was an inspirational person who showed us great humanity and dignity throughout her illness. Pat was also a very special person who had an extraordinary gift of making every one of us feel important to her and as a consequence, she was a real motivator of people. She was also a great leader and a driver of quality care.

Pat had a great gift of understanding mental illness and compassion for human suffering. This guided her decision making which was always focused on what's best for the patient and for his/her family. Pat had great enthusiasm for our Department of Psychiatry and our activities. We were blessed to have such an advocate. Our lives-and the lives of countless patients- have been immeasurably enhanced by the privilege and joy of knowing Pat.

shenyse86
15
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shenyse86 02/19/10 - 02:52 pm
0
0
We're blessed from having the

We're blessed from having the opportunity to learn from her. Blessings to the family, especially her husband Dennis who loved her best.

Bill Norton
0
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Bill Norton 02/19/10 - 04:20 pm
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0
Virginia and I offer our

Virginia and I offer our condolences to you and your family, Dennis. You remain in our prayers. God bless you.

CarlaMoore
6
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CarlaMoore 02/19/10 - 04:53 pm
0
0
Dennis so sorry to hear this

Dennis so sorry to hear this news. My deepest sympathies to you and your family on this terrible loss. We will keep you in our prays.
MAY GOD BE WITH YOU! Carla

CarlaMoore
6
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CarlaMoore 02/19/10 - 04:53 pm
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0
Dennis so sorry to hear this

Dennis so sorry to hear this news. My deepest sympathies to you and your family on this terrible loss. We will keep you in our prays.
MAY GOD BE WITH YOU! Carla

festa3a
0
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festa3a 02/19/10 - 07:38 pm
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Ashley and I are so sorry

Ashley and I are so sorry Dennis. We will keep you and your loved ones in our prayers. - Andrew

Junket831
0
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Junket831 02/20/10 - 09:43 am
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This is a very big loss for

This is a very big loss for MCG and the entire Augusta community. She had become not only a leader, but a pillar in the health care profession, not only here in the CSRA but throughout the country during the last 20 years. Her death at a young age is a painful reminder to make the most of your life, as she certainly did. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.

Med College guy 64
0
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Med College guy 64 02/23/10 - 09:17 am
0
0
Man, what a loss for MCG and

Man, what a loss for MCG and for the community. We were truly blessed to have a woman with so much compassion as an advocate for patients and families. I never had the honor of knowing her personally, but I have always respected Pat and her work. She was such a dynamic person, there will be no way to ever replace her. I do pray that MCG will be able to find someone to be able to carry on her work, however, as it is desperately needed.

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