Self Regional Medical Center

Self Regional Medical Center is seeing a drop in the incidence of COVID-19 cases.

Jim Pfeiffer is retiring at the end of the year after more than 13 years leading Self Regional Healthcare as its president and CEO.

“There comes a point in your life where you decide it’s time to hang it up and let somebody younger do it,” he said.

Pfeiffer has steered Self since 2008 and oversaw sprawling changes that took Self from a community medical center into a regional health care system spanning the Lakelands’ seven counties. On Monday, Self Regional Healthcare Board Chairman David Tompkins announced via a media release that Pfeiffer told the board he will retire Dec. 21.

His predecessor, John Hydel, had a philosophy that became the hospital’s tagline — “Only at Self” — and Pfeiffer said he worked to live up to that goal. Self’s leadership sought to develop specialty services people couldn’t get at other medical facilities in the area, building a spine center, orthopedic services, and myriad cardiovascular procedures among other specialty fields.

To serve the 250,000-275,000 people in the Lakelands, Pfeiffer said developing their employee physician group was key. When he started, there were four to 10 employee physicians, mostly working in hospital-based programs.

Now, there are more than 200 doctors and health care providers throughout the seven counties working for Self. It’s this dedicated staff that Pfeiffer said earned Self its numerous accolades, including Forbes noting it as the best-in-state employer, 14 Gallup Great Workplace Awards and many awards from health organizations.

“They’re all truly engaged, truly involved in the workings of the hospital,” Pfeiffer said. “We’ve really got a committed workforce, not only in the physicians and providers, but in all our team members.”

Pfeiffer said he always had his sights set on retiring in 2021. He’s 64 and turns 65 in August — he said he wants to spend time with his grandchildren while they’re still young. He picked the end of the year because it’s normally not busy, and he chuckled when he said he liked how catchy 12/21/21 seemed.

He has 10 acres of land in Tallahassee, Florida, which is close to where his children and both sets of grandkids are. Pfeiffer said he wants to retire to the life of a “gentleman farmer.”

“What I’ve valued most has been the opportunity to work alongside some of the most dedicated health care professionals that any organization can have,” Pfeiffer said. “I will truly miss these health care heroes and the friendship that I have developed with my fellow administrative team over these years.”

It’s those heroes who are still tackling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pfeiffer said. They worked through the initial shortage of protective gear, put in place a monoclonal antibody treatment system that health systems throughout the state came to learn from and have administered more than 42,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from their clinic, along with doses at mobile community health events.

“We’re of such a size that we’re nimble, and we can do things quickly and accurately,” he said. “I’ve seen our team, over the last year, completely come together to do the job that we know they need to do.”

In terms of what the future holds for health care, Pfeiffer said he’s seen firsthand the lack of access in public health. Addressing transportation needs and getting people the care they need will be the ongoing challenge for anyone in health care.

“We need to look at some of, I’ll call it the social determinants of health, which cause some of the underlying health conditions,” he said. “We’ve got to think of things that help move the needle on these social determinants of health.”

Before coming to Self, Pfeiffer worked in leadership roles at a four-hospital system in Tampa, Florida, leading it to awards and recognition. He’ll still work at Self for the remainder of the year, but a search committee to look for Self’s next president and CEO has formed and will work with Anderson & Associates from Charlotte to identify candidates.

“Jim’s steady leadership will be sorely missed, but he has served this organization and this community well, he’s had a long and distinguished career and we wish him only the best as he enters this new chapter of his life,” Tompkins said. “We’ve known for some time that Jim intended to retire this year, and with this formal announcement we’ll officially kick off our search process for the next president and CEO.”

Self Regional has had only five CEOs in its 70 years running, and Pfeiffer said he was grateful for the opportunity to lead the organization during his tenure.

“Thank you to my team for being such a great group of people,” he said “I truly will miss my team members, my physicians and my other health care providers, because they’re the ones who make it happen day in and day out.”

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.