Transcript Staff Writer

Norman Regional Hospital President and CEO David D. Whitaker recently was named to a three-year term on the 16-member national VHA Foundation board, representing 2,200 not-for-profit health care organizations.

The foundation's efforts on hospital employees' behalf was one of the reasons he wanted to serve.

"One of the things that really swayed me to participate was thinking back to May 1999 and May 2003, the two tornadoes. VHA Foundation actually assisted 143 VHA hospital employees in Oklahoma City," he said, with the VHA Foundation distributing $122,000 in 1999 to affected employees and another $11,500 to 23 hospital employees in 2003. "I think it's a way to pay back."

The Irving, Texas-based VHA, or Voluntary Hospitals Association, is a health care alliance that helps members increase their purchasing power by buying en masse. It is not a lobbying or advocacy group, he said.

"With 2,200 hospitals in a group, that's a lot of purchasing power," Whitaker said.

Member hospitals range in size from a 50-bed, rural community hospital to a major metropolitan health care system like Integris in Oklahoma City.

"VHA is a member-driven organization; members control the board," he said.

The foundation was created by VHA Inc. to encourage leadership and innovation in addressing health and health care issues.

"We participate in, at any time, between 10 to 15 of VHA's national quality initiative programs," Whitaker said.

"We're participating right now in transformation of (Intensive Care Units.) To make ICUs a safer place with better outcomes ? decreasing opportunities for infections or unexpected outcomes.

"So it brings the best-of-the-best from those 2,200 member hospitals. It's a very, very effective organization."

The foundation board is made up of a variety of health-related professionals, but is not all hospital people, he said.

"I'm a CEO who's on the front line," Whitaker said. "That will allow me to share the day-to-day operation of a hospital with a foundation board that will be making decisions that affect foundation members.

"I don't usually have problems speaking up."

He attends his first board meeting in August. In the meantime, he has a hefty board orientation packet to pore through.

"I'm excited about it," Whitaker said. "I will be able to bring back lots of ideas to the hospital here."

He said he is ready to start digging in on whatever subcommittees he is assigned to.

Whitaker is responsible for Norman Regional Hospital's operations, related subsidiaries and joint ventures.

He was formerly the president and chief operating officer of United Regional Health Care System and president and CEO of Holy Family of Nazarene Health Ministries in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Whitaker has served as CEO and COO of Bethania Regional Health Care Center and president and executive director of Texoma Health Network in Wichita Falls. He began his career with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas in 1978.

He received his bachelor's degree and master's degree in business administration from Midwestern State University.

Carol Cole 366-3538

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