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Finger Lakes News
Former Finger Lakes Health CEO Leaves Lasting Legacy

It is with great sadness and regret that we share that James J. Dooley, past long-tenured President and CEO of Finger Lakes Health, institutional icon, community leader, youth advocate, hockey coach, friend, mentor, and most importantly, beloved husband and father, died the afternoon of Sunday, March 4, 2012 after suffering a significant cardiac event on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 while in Florida.

“We have lost a great leader and friend in Jim. He spear-headed growth and change at the helm of Finger Lakes Health. He always had the best interest of the communities we serve at the center of all the decisions he made. His dedication, commitment, and contributions to the health of our community are unprecedented and unparalleled”, shared Donald P. Wertman, Chair, Finger Lakes Health Board of Directors.

On behalf of the Finger Lakes Health family, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Dooley family, especially his wife Caryl, and children Paul, who lives in Alabama, and Katelyn, who resides in Massachusetts.

Dooley, 64, was hired as Administrator at Geneva General Hospital in 1978 when there were approximately 400 employees. Geneva General Hospital’s evolution into Finger Lakes Health, a 696-bed multi-entity health system, through affiliating with Taylor-Brown Memorial Hospital and Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital and incorporating several long-term care facilities is attributed to Dooley’s vision and leadership.

Ultimately, these contributions resulted in Finger Lakes Health, which currently provides primary, acute, and long-term care services delivered in four counties by more than 1800 employees.

During Dooley’s 33 year tenure, examples of his countless and laudable accomplishments included:

• Instituting 24-hour/ 7 days a week Emergency Department coverage;

• Overseeing multiple renovation and expansion projects;

• Establishing a nationally-recognized Acute Rehab Unit;

• Opening the Seneca, Dundee, and Clyde Family Health Centers;

• Instituting a Transitional Care (short-term rehab) program, special needs (Alzheimer’s Care) unit and neuro-behavioral unit within the long-term division;

• Introduction of the Sleep Laboratory;

• Achieving Critical Access Hospital designation for Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital;

• Beginning the Hospitalist Program;

• Earning countless awards and recognitions such as NYS Patient Safety Awards, New York State Stroke Center and Joint Commission Stroke designations, and American Stroke Association Gold “Get with the Guidelines Award”;

• Building the Finger Lakes Surgery Center, the region’s only free-standing ambulatory surgery center;

• Creating the Geneva General Child Care Center, serving the local community; and

• Developing and launching the Finger Lakes College of Nursing-RN College. Dooley has been recognized nationally and statewide for his healthcare advocacy and contributions to innovative healthcare delivery systems.

His professional involvement included being a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, serving on the American Hospital Association Regional Policy Board, serving as a board member and chair of the Rochester Regional Healthcare Association (RRHA) and leader of RRHA’s Joint Ventures, board member of the Healthcare Association of New York State, founding member of VHA Empire/ Metro Charter Board Member and Chair, and Chair of VHA Foundation.

“This is a loss that reverberates across the entire hospital world. Jim Dooley constantly focused on improving the health of the community and the quality of care provided in the Health System. He was a strong and vigorous leader; but simultaneously a man with a great sense of humor, devoid of pretence or arrogance. As a member of our statewide Board of Trustees for several years, he could break through all the theory and rhetoric and provide straight forward wisdom about health care policy. We have all lost a bit of the best about health care with his passing,” commented Dan Sisto, President, Healthcare Association of New York State.

Dooley’s contributions to area youth and our community are equally notable. An unwavering youth advocate, Dooley is credited with development of the Geneva General Childcare Center which has served thousands of children and currently serves 160 area families. He also helped found the Geneva Youth Hockey program, served on the America’s Promise Alliance for Youth National Advisory Board, and most recently served as Chair of the Geneva Community Center Advisory Board.

Ever active in the community, Dooley served on the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce from 1994-2006 in various capacities including Government Relations Chair. He also served on the YMCA board, Jobs for Geneva, and Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes. He has been honored by Catholic Charities, as the recipient of the “Sharing the Light” award in 2001, the Boy Scouts of America, Finger Lakes Council, selected him as Distinguished Citizen in 2003, and he was recognized as Monroe County Hockey League “Coach of the Year” in 1996 and 1999, when he served as Head Hockey Coach of Geneva/DeSales High Schools.

Jim was well-loved, and was recognized by students, athletes, and colleagues as the consummate coach and mentor. “Finger Lakes residents have been fortunate to have a man of his extraordinary talents and commitment, serve as President & CEO of Finger Lakes Health. He had many gifts and was generous in employing them for the betterment of and in service to area youth. He will be remembered as a friend, teacher, mentor, and inspirational leader”, stated Jose Acevedo, M.D., who succeeded Dooley as President & CEO of Finger Lakes Health when Dooley retired in March of 2010.

Dooley, born in Boston, and a native of Dorchester, Massachusetts attended St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, majoring in Biology as an undergraduate and earned his Master’s in Health Administration from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He worked at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania before making Geneva his home and the center of his professional and community life.

In a 2010 health system publication when asked which of his accomplishments made him most proud, Dooley responded, “…connecting communities. As we look back and compare the past with how we function now, you see immeasurable value in these connections. Making programs work on a small scale is difficult, but when you connect communities and leverage their assets to work together we are better able to deliver quality service and create value.”

All who know and admire Dooley know that his legacy will indeed live on in these connections. In tribute to Jim’s life, the health system “hearpple” flag will be flown at half mast until his birthday later this month, and a moment of silence will be announced overhead for all to observe. The health system has also announced intentions to name the new pediatric inpatient unit for Dooley as part of the “Journey to the Best” project reflecting his love for children. The Finger Lakes College of Nursing will also name a scholarship for Dooley paying homage to his commitment to education and instrumental role in the establishment of the College.

Arrangements are being coordinated through DeVaney funeral home. Calling hours and services will be announced shortly in accordance with the family’s wishes. Jim is survived by his wife, Caryl, and their two children, Paul and Katelyn. He is also survived by brothers John and William Dooley and sisters, Margie Hoey and Jane Zailskas. He was pre-deceased by sisters Cathleen Thayer and Anna Mary Stewart.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to be made to Finger Lakes Health Foundation or St. Anselm College.

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