Health care executive Joseph L. Woodin is trading one scenic vista for another.
Woodin, who last year was fired as chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, is moving 5,000 miles to lead a hospital in rural Alaska — though he remains locked in a legal dispute with the Vineyard hospital and its parent company, Partners HealthCare.
Woodin’s ouster was unusual: Hospital board members didn’t detail the reasons for his dismissal, after about a year on the job, and many concerned residents blamed them for botching both the firing and how it was communicated.
Martha’s Vineyard Hospital appointed a new CEO, Denise Schepici, who began in January. But it has yet to reach agreement with Woodin over the terms of his separation.
Partners officials and Woodin both declined to discuss the legal proceedings because they are ongoing.
Woodin, 57, said he’s looking forward to his next chapter as chief executive of South Peninsula Hospital in picturesque Homer, Alaska, about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage.
“Sometimes our greatest disappointments become an opportunity for new adventure, and for me, it’s going to Alaska,” he said.
He plans to move to Alaska and start his new job in March, trading Martha’s Vineyard’s beaches for the vast bay and jagged snow-covered mountains visible from Homer, where the wildlife includes eagles, otters, and bears.
“It’s an extremely beautiful part of the country — so much so that it’s almost painful to the eye in terms of the exquisite details of the scenery with mountains and glaciers and topography,” Woodin said.
Despite its distance from Martha’s Vineyard, Homer shares many similarities with the Massachusetts island. Both have small populations that swell with tourists in the summer. (Campers, hikers, and fishing enthusiasts are among those who flock to Homer in the warmer months.)
Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is on an island; South Peninsula Hospital is on a peninsula, some 70 miles from the next-closest hospital. And both communities are home to residents who care deeply about their local hospital.
Woodin was among dozens of candidates interested in the Homer job, and one of four who traveled there for an in-person interview.
South Peninsula spokeswoman Derotha Ferraro said Woodin’s personality and experience — including many years running a hospital in rural Vermont — were a good fit for Homer.
The South Peninsula Hospital board was not worried about Woodin’s messy departure from Martha’s Vineyard, she added.
“The board was aware from the start of that situation, and if there were any concerns, they were all totally alleviated by Joe’s experience and his performance in the site visit,” said Ferraro, who took Woodin on a tour of the area in January.
Meanwhile, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is attempting to move on from the controversy surrounding Woodin’s firing.
Tony James, a hospital board member, said part of the charge for the Vineyard hospital’s new chief executive was to rebuild trust with the community.
Schepici has begun doing that, said James, who is senior vice president of network development and integration at the Partners-owned Massachusetts General Hospital.
Schepici, 60, has decades of experience in health care administration, most recently as chief administrative officer at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham.
She also has ties to the Vineyard: She and and her husband honeymooned there in the 1980s and have owned a home on the island for more than a decade.
Schepici said she has never met Woodin and is not distracted by the hospital’s ongoing legal proceedings with him. She’s spending her first weeks as CEO meeting with people inside and outside of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital as she sets her priorities.
“I’m trying to focus on the future and not dwell on the past,” Schepici said.
One of her first moves as CEO was to start the process of hiring a public affairs director.
Community members — who were upset last summer by what they considered poor communication between the hospital and the island’s residents — said Schepici is making an effort to hear their concerns.
“As far as we can see, she definitely wants to become more open and transparent with the community,” said Patricia “Paddy” Moore, a West Tisbury resident who leads a group focused on healthy aging and has closely followed the hospital’s dealings. “I’m very hopeful.”
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