St. Anthony Hospital bears little resemblance to the facility Jeff Drop inherited when he arrived in Pendleton in 1994. And that's a credit to the leadership the hospital administrator has provided during his tenure in this community.

And while the opportunity to oversee 11 hospitals instead of just one represents a dramatic professional milestone, the transfer of Drop to a new post in the Midwest represents a tremendous loss to both St. Anthony and Umatilla County.

Drop's new title is senior vice president division executive officer with a headquarters in Fargo, N.D., and responsibility for hospital boards and chief executive officers scattered across North Dakota and Minnesota.

In the process, he will continue to work for Catholic Health Initiatives.

Hospital Has Long History in Pendleton

St. Anthony Hospital has a distinguished history in Pendleton dating back to 1901 when it was decided to spend $75,000 to create a 40-bed hospital to serve the region. Prior to that time, the sick and injured were treated in a three-story Victorian house that still exists today.

During the past 14 years, St. Anthony has continued to improve its clinical and operational services while also enjoying a higher degree of financial performance. CHI officials also point out that Drop has improved the work environment and the hospital's focus on its core values.

His landmark achievement is most likely the $15.7 million remodeling project that was completed in 2002. Drop believes the renovation positioned the hospital for physician recruitment, helped advance its overall mission, and serves as a reminder to the community that St. Anthony is here to stay.

He is humble in the assessment of his contributions saying, "I just took a good hospital and made it a little better." He was more interested in talking about the current rock-solid fiscal condition of the entity, a medical staff he praises as one of the best in Eastern Oregon, and an engaged, well-qualified board.

Drop, who came here from Estherville, Iowa, also was quick to point out Pendleton has been good to he and his family. "This is the longest we have spent anywhere and it has been a wonderful place to raise and educate our family. But, I also enjoy new places and new challenges," he added, "and this opportunity permits me to take some of what I have learned at St. Anthony and apply it to a group of hospitals that are similar in size and challenges."

St. Anthony a Major Player in the Region

Health care in Eastern Oregon is big business and St. Anthony certainly is one of the major players. With 300 employees, the hospital is one of Pendleton's largest employers and it also ranks as one of the 25 largest employers in Eastern Oregon.

Within the past year, St. Anthony has purchased a large piece of property across from Les Schwab on the southern edge of Pendleton. While little has been said about the intent of the purchase beyond the fact the hospital wanted to be prepared for the future, the current facility is land-locked between the highway and the railroad tracks. Ninety-three acres of open land certainly would be an attractive alternative were the hospital to decide to relocate at some point in the future.

The very fact St. Anthony is poised for such growth is a credit to Drop's leadership. One of the hallmarks of an effective leader is the capacity to create a vision, establish long-term goals and effectively prepare an organization or institution for the future.

That ability certainly hasn't been lost on those in the top echelons of Catholic Health Initiatives who appreciate what has happened in Pendleton and now are choosing to utilize Jeff Drop on a much broader scale.

In the meantime, St. Anthony Hospital and this community have benefited from his presence.

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