Paul Chodkowski, CEO of St. Anthony Summit for the past 13 years, will retire this week | SummitDaily.com

Paul Chodkowski, CEO of St. Anthony Summit for the past 13 years, will retire this week

Before 2005, the only real medical help in Summit County was a one-story clinic in Frisco. It had a few doctors, a barebones emergency room and a couple of birthing rooms. There were no real long-term care beds, and anybody needing serious medical help had to go down to Denver or Vail. Imagine having to do that during a snowstorm.

"People had to drive down to Denver or Vail, and during the winter that was treacherous," said Paul Chodkowski, current CEO of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.

Chodkowski was the last administrator of the old medical clinic and the first CEO of the new hospital when it opened its doors 13 years ago. "Building this hospital has saved a lot of lives in this county," he said.

Within nine months of opening, St. Anthony's qualified as a Level III trauma center, able to handle some of the most critical medical emergencies without the need to send patients elsewhere. After numerous expansions over the years, the hospital now has 35 beds, four operating theaters, eight birthing rooms and a variety of specialists for cardiology, neurology, endocrinology, oncology, sleep disorders and other health areas that Summit never had established specialists for before.

All that progress had been guided by Chodkowski, and after 13 years at the helm of St. Anthony's, he will be retiring on Friday. He leaves behind a legacy of immeasurable improvement in medical care for Summit County residents and prestige for St. Anthony's, which was rated as one of America's 100 best hospitals earlier this year.

Chodkowski refuses to take much credit for the St. Anthony's success story, insisting that it's all due to the care and work of the Catholic hospital's staff, doctors and nurses.

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"It's a reflection of incredible work of staff and physicians to meet the high standards we have set here," Chodkowski said. "St. Anthony's continues to lead the nation in patient satisfaction, and that's a result of the caring attitude of staff, and our values of compassion, dignity, and respect."

Before taking on the CEO position at St. Anthony's, Chodkowski spent decades administering hospitals on both coasts, with his last stint as CEO of St. Clare's hospital in Schenectady, New York. Chodkowski's Catholic faith was the impetus for getting into hospital administration as he sought way to find better ways to heal and care for people.

"The greatest legacy I've tried to leave at every institution I've been at is providing a healing ministry of Christ to those who we care for," Chodkowski said. "I've been in Catholic health care for over 30 years, and that mission drives me personally and resonates for many other people. My goal here was to provide a loving care environment."

Chodkowski acknowledged that St. Anthony's and Summit County still have deficiencies that need to be addressed, especially the behavioral health system. He hopes that St. Anthony's will be a leader on that front, as it collaborates with local partners to improve mental health care and reduce the suicide rate that is well above the national average.

As far what comes after retirement, Chodkowski said he plans to stick around in Summit, at least part time. He and his wife, Diane, plan to split time between a home in the Adirondacks and their home in Breckenridge. They bought both the Icon and Epic passes, and plan to be on the slopes in Summit and across the country for as long as they are able.

While Centura Health, which operates St. Anthony's, conducts a nationwide search for Chodkowski's replacement, the hospital's current chief medical officer, Dr. Marshall Denkinger, will step into the role of interim CEO. Chodkowski said that the recruiting process has been putting an emphasis on getting local input on what they want out of the next CEO, and he is sure the hospital will continue to progress and succeed with the values it already operates with.

Chodkowski left a message of encouragement and hope for the hospital and the people he's worked with for 13 years.

"I ask our staff to continue the wonderful work of our healing ministry, and to continue achieving the highest outcomes of care and patient satisfaction," he said. "St. Anthony will continue to be our hospital for as long as we live in Summit County."