Colacchio named D-H Clinic head

by Kathleen McDermott | 2/1/00 6:00am

Dartmouth Medical School Professor Thomas Colacchio, M.D. was recently elected President of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic by the clinic's Board of Trustees.

As president, he represents the 500 physicians and 1,500 employees of the clinic, based in Lebanon, N.H., with 30 different locations throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

Colacchio said he plans to focus on the "academic part of our mission -- the creation and sharing of new knowledge with learners [will] become a more essential part of the activities of the rest of the system beyond Lebanon."

He also said that he wants his colleagues in Southern New Hampshire and elsewhere to have a more active and hands-on participation in teaching residents and conducting clinical research.

"It clearly is something we can extend more broadly ... [It will be] a benefit both to our education processes and the community too," he added.

He said that he will also work on "balancing the need to adapt to the changes and requirements [of new health financing issues] and still accomplish the other goals of teaching and research."

But despite his administrative duties, Colacchio still cares for patients and teaches, spending Tuesdays and Fridays in the operating room.

According to Colacchio, physicians in leadership positions at Dartmouth-Hitchcock always remain practicing physicians in order to keep credibility with colleagues and maintain a sense of perspective and reality.

Originally from Jersey City, N.J., he earned his undergraduate degree at Boston College and his medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine. He then served his residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City and spent a year as a Fellow in Academic Surgery at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

Colacchio arrived at Dartmouth in 1980 "almost purely by chance." After applying for a position at Tufts Medical Center, his application was referred to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic.

Upon coming up for an interview, he said he was "surprisingly overwhelmed by what I found ... Since I've came I haven't left."

Colacchio said he has long held an interest in leadership and administrative activities, serving as Chief of the Section of General Surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock 1984-1996 and then as chair of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic/Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital Board of Governors just prior to his election to president.

"The more exposure I got in administrative and leadership activities the more I recognized I enjoyed it," he said, adding that becoming President was "a natural evolution."

He is only the seventh president in Dartmouth-Hitchcock's 75 years of establishment; there is no established term limit, although traditionally the post has been held for 10 years.

"I never saw myself doing administrative work exclusively," he said. "I like caring for patients and will do that always ... [But to] create a system for delivering care that is more effective is a very exciting challenge."Colacchio said he is "pleased to be given the opportunity to work with colleagues in the clinic and hospital. It will be a long and productive relationship."