Dan Friedrich, who spearheaded the successful drive seven years ago to create the first trauma center in Manatee County at Blake Medical Center along with other new services, is leaving after 15 years as Blake’s chief executive officer.
“I’m going to retire and start a new phase of my life,” the west Bradenton resident said with a big grin Monday in his office at Blake, where he is the leader of a staff of 1,300 and 400 doctors.
“It’s something we all start to think about when we get older,” the 63-year-old Friedrich added. “Being a CEO of a hospital is a 24/7 job, and at some point you need to regenerate yourself and go do something a little bit different. But it’s only a retirement in that I don’t plan to work for money anymore. But I will be doing a lot of volunteer work.”
Friedrich beamed when he talked about the trauma center.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Bradenton Herald
“It was a two-year process from the time we really started talking to people until our initial verification with the state,” Friedrich said. “We have served more patients than we thought we would. The first year we saw around 500 trauma patients and last year it was more than 1,500. It’s so important when you do have a traumatic injury that you can get to a trauma center within that golden hour, the first hour, so having this service available in our community has been great.”
Besides trauma, other specialties started under Friedrich’s tenure include a burn care unit and a specialized surgery program for hands.
“You would have to fly someone to somewhere like Shands for this kind of hand surgery, but now it is available here,” Friedrich said.
A life of faith
Friedrich, whose wife, Debbie, is also an active member of Manatee’s medical community as a nurse practitioner and a professor at the University of South Florida, is a member of Saints Peter & Paul the Apostles Catholic Church and plans to increase his prayer time, which is now 30 to 45 minutes a day.
When once asked if he felt it odd to be a man of science and medicine who believes in God, Friedrich replied, “I am actually a man of God who believes in science.”
Friedrich has modeled his personal principles after those of Francis of Assisi, a Roman Catholic friar who believed in putting the needs of others before his own.
“I am a Franciscan,” Friedrich said.
Friedrich said he will not retire until his successor is found by Blake’s parent company, HCA Healthcare.
“I’ve agreed to stay on until HCA finds somebody,” Friedrich added. “It will be sometime this fall. They will recruit both internally and throughout our company where we have people who want to move up. They will also look outside the company to find the perfect individual. Once that person is found, I will stay for a short period and then turn over the reins.”
For all 15 years of his tenure as CEO, Sandra Monahan has been Friedrich’s executive administrative assistant.
“He’s awesome,” Monahan said of her boss. “He is a man of integrity. He puts God first and family second and all the rest comes in that order.”
“His legacy is his relationships,” Monahan added. “He’s kind, compassionate and develops relationships with all of the people he comes in contact with.”
In 15 years, Monahan said Friedrich has never grumbled or growled at her.
“In fact, we have people come in the office and they can’t believe he comes out of the office always with a smile on his face,” Monahan said.
Diane Lehman, Blake’s director of business development, called Friedrich “probably the most moral and ethical person and best strategic planner that I have ever known.”
“I think his legacy is the way he has been able to connect with employees, with the community, business leaders and physicians,” Lehman said. “I also think his legacy is the tremendous programs he has been able to achieve at the hospital.”
Friedrich is only the fifth CEO in the hospital’s history, which began in 1970 under the leadership of John Moore and continued with Dick Scheffer, Lindell Orr, Bill Nowak, Orr a second time and then Friedrich.
Friedrich came to Blake Medical Center from St. Petersburg General Hospital.