Welcome new physician executives and read message from former CMO

Elizabeth Ransom, M.D., became Oregon’s new chief medical officer on March 14. Dr. Ransom brings to Providence the experience of a career in health care with a focus on clinical excellence through quality improvement, physician engagement and patient experience. She has most recently served as chief physician executive of Baptist Health in Florida. Prior to that she served as executive vice president and clinical leader for the north zone of Texas Health Resources which has a size and scope similar to Providence Oregon.

Dr. Ransom succeeds Steven Freer, M.D., who will transition to a more full-time role in graduate medical education as the Isidor Brill Chair of Medicine at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. Dr. Freer also will continue to support selected projects in Providence Oregon’s quality department. See Dr. Freer’s farewell message below.

Matt Gadbaw, M.D., has been selected as executive director for Providence Oregon Hospitalists. Dr. Gadbaw has been leading the hospitalists in an interim role since Carolyn Sites, M.D., retired last year.

Dr. Gadbaw has been a member of the hospitalist division since 2004. During that time, he has served as a combined internal medicine and pediatric hospitalist, the associate medical director of internal medicine hospitalists and most recently as medical director, internal medicine and pediatric hospitalists.

A reflection, with gratitude from Steven Freer, M.D.

As I prepare for my next journey at Providence, I want to thank all of you for your partnership and share my reflections on what I’ve learned from working with you as colleagues.

In his memoir of World War I, “Goodbye To All That,” the British writer and poet Robert Graves reflects extensively on the impact of the war on the imperialist world of the early 20th century Edwardian age and on modernity itself. Graves, an Irish descendent of middle-class England, was a sharp observer of entitlement and privilege, and as a mauled survivor of the Battle of the Somme, he knew a thing or two about loss.

Everything anyone had come to know and expect changed radically in the smoldering wake of The Great War, and with technology as the catalyst, would never be the same again. By the time the smoke cleared, the war had reaped 11 million souls, and the influenza pandemic that followed would claim nearly 10 times again that many. No one could have predicted all the implications of these twin catastrophes. 

It’s always hard to know, in the moment, when something is changing forever. At some point, everything in our lives – the innocence of our children, the touch of our spouse, the voices of our parents – is done, lived, experienced for the last time. The pandemic has left many of us with moments of sorrow and suffering that we never saw coming. It has left many others with moments of clarity and purpose like nothing else in our professional and personal lives. 

For the past eight years, I have had the great privilege to serve as your regional chief medical officer. I came to the job green and in many ways ill-equipped for the journey, with little to rely upon besides my core values and my experience as chief of medicine at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. Nothing in that prior experience, such as it was, prepared me for the dramatic impact of a pandemic. I was fortunate early on for some excellent mentorship from my predecessor and especially for the magnificent colleagues and associates, too numerous to name, with whom I have worked closely throughout my tenure as CMO. If I have been effective in these past eight years, I owe a debt of gratitude to every single one of these smart and dedicated people. 

I first decided to step down from this role in late 2019, but then the virus arrived, and it seemed inappropriate. As the current pandemic surge abates, the timing for a transition is more auspicious. On March 14, my successor, Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, will arrive as the new regional CMO. With prior senior executive leadership roles in three large health systems, she will be the most experienced physician executive we have had in this role, and I look forward to making her transition as smooth as possible. The pandemic has catalyzed changes in health care that I certainly never would have anticipated, and she will face challenges very different and more complex than the ones I encountered eight years ago, but I have great confidence in her, and I believe you will too.  

Today for the first time in the memory of all but the oldest among us, we are seeing a major war of aggression on the European continent, a war that violates the sovereignty of a country and the dignity and humanity of its people. Like the pandemic, few would have seen this coming, and fewer still where it will go. All we can know is that the suffering will be enormous, the destruction pointless, and that these mournful and somber bells cannot be un-rung. Some loss is simply irretrievable. And as with pandemics internationally or perennial wildfires locally, it reminds me that every day granted to us is precious, that every moment we share with each other in peace, safety and security is fragile and ephemeral. We need to see them as the gifts that they are, especially in the shadow of such tremendous disruption like COVID. 

It has been the honor and privilege of my professional life to serve as your CMO these past eight years, and especially through the past two years of this pandemic. I have met and collaborated with people I never would have known otherwise, and I’ve been impressed, inspired and humbled by the experience. It is impossible to thank each of you personally, but I want you to know that the dedication of all of you – my colleagues, friends and associates – has kept me going through some low moments these past few years.

I’m not leaving entirely just yet but am rededicating myself to my role as the Brill Chair of Medicine and as an educator and teacher in the residency program at PSVMC. I make this transition with a tremendous sense of pride and gratitude for you, the people of Providence, for all you have taught me these past several years, for your grace and patience through my missteps, and for all you have revealed of your true spirit. 

Flying Crooked

The butterfly, the cabbage white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

-Robert Graves (1895-1985)


With abiding thanks and admiration,

Steven D. Freer, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Providence Oregon
Isidor Brill Professor and Chair of Medicine
Providence St. Vincent Medical Center

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