Recently had the honor of meeting with Michael Palmieri, CEO and President of Havenwood-Heritage Heights Retirement Community in Concord, N.H. As expected, it proved to be very exciting, informative and optimistic for the future of H-HH.
What followed was a Q & A with Michael on issues and insights that ultimately will impact our community and residents for decades to come.
Larry Pelland: "Tad's Place", a Multi-Cultural Center, ranks as one of your most treasured accomplishments to date as CEO and President of H-HH, and it's probably a first in CCRC's (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) throughout our country. How did this all come about?
Michael Palmieri: I think that the development and eventual grand opening of "Tad's Place" is one of many
outstanding accomplishments in Havenwood-Heritage Heights history and it does stand out as one of the most notable. I think partly because I knew Tad personally and also because so much sweat equity was put into that project given the fact that we literally fundraised so much to build such a magnificent building. We are truly grateful for all of those people who contributed and were part of this great building and making a major dream become a reality.
L.P: What are some of the future projects planned for H-HH?
M.P: There are several major accomplishments that range from the development of our Havenwood Campus Main Street to the gorgeous new cottages built on Eastside Drive and then on Ormand Street. In between those projects are literally hundreds of things that have been remarkable advancements for this organization. The extensive renovation work we did in our Health Services Center several years ago was very gratifying. To know that we made the lives of the residents who live there and the staff who work there better because of an improved environment makes us all feel great. I'm very proud of all of the work done to make two first-rate fitness centers a hallmark of people's lives each day, Then we can also think about the power of and difference made because of the gift from our very own and former resident Ruth Somes. It's now been a year since we've had the magnificent house on the bluff and all of its special amenities and that was only made possible because of such a thoughtful gift.
L.P: Your reflections on the professionalism of Cobb Hill Construction Company?
M.P: I think the value of relationships within this organization makes all the difference. Notably, we have had a fantastic relationship with Jerry Kingwell and Cobb Hill Construction. They have worked with us for many years now on a wide variety of award-winning projects. What is most exciting about this relationship is how they help us take a concept that we often sketched on the back of a napkin to full blown reality. Plus the fact that they're easy and fun to work with!
L.P: You have been C.E.O. and President of H-HH for over 15 years. Will your finish your career in the health care field here?
M.P: I don't think that any other place would be as fulfilling or exciting as Havenwood-Heritage Heights. Believe it or not, I think our work really has just begun. I would never argue that the last fiteen years have been incredible, but our profession continues to evolve daily and we all stand ready to lead this organization into the future. So in a roundabout way, yes I'd love to stay to my retirement. It's my major passion.
L.P: You have met and come to know all of the residents past and present at H-HH. Is there one couple or individual who have had a lasting favorable impression with you?
M.P: I've had to know well over 2000 residents in my 15 years at Havenwood Heritage Heights. In my opinion they're all equally outstanding and everyone has a great story. I've always been respectful of seniors dating back to my high school years and based my life's work on the fact that these are the folks who have paved a wonderful society for so many people today. There are two people that I would say rise a step above for me. I was privileged to know Everett and Anne Barrows. Everett was a great visionary and a wonderful supporter of everything we were doing in my early days here. He's a legend in my mind and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to meet our founding father back in 1998. Anne was just a wonderful person in every respect. It means a lot to me and made a difference in the work that we've done.
L.P: Your devoted wife Kate has been exemplary in supporting you in all of your endeavors Just how important is that to you on a personal level?
M.P: Kate is a great supporter of what this organization does and she really gets it because she's been a health care professional herself for well over 20 years now. She's invested a lot of her life to helping people and a very large part of that has been tied to senior living and rehabilitation.
L.P: What are some of the most coveted awards that you and the community have received over these many years?
M.P: Well that's a great question and it's funny that as we sit in this office we look at some very nice awards that have been given to either myself or the organization. That's a tough question but I still get excited when I look at that dollar bill sitting up there in the frame. Of all the awards that have been received, that one came from a resident's son. He recognized how much a relationship depth we have with our residents and how much his dad enjoyed our bond, and it all started with a game of billiards. Apparently his son wanted to pay good on a debt of his dad's now long past. It must have been a game of eight ball which explains that dollar bill in the frame. That's one game I think I won!
L.P: How would you best describe the value of your staff?
M.P: In my opinion we have the best staff anywhere. They're all high-quality people, very professional yet greatly empathetic, and well-educated people, really every one of our staff members! We have over 300 people. They show their love for the residents each and every day which no one can match.
LP: Describe what some of the more short-term plans are for H-HH.
M.P: We are working very closely with the residents at Heritage Heights and their 'Wish List Committee' and we are all setting our sights on building a Great Room on the Heritage Heights Campus in 2013. That's one of many things that will come in the future but to have a room of that caliber will be a game changer for so many people and will enhance their quality of life beyond measurement.
L.P: How do you personally handle the loss of a cherished resident, especially one whom you have come to know and admire?
M.P: For all of us, staff and residents alike, it's always difficult to lose a resident, but being a faith-based community does have its special benefits. We all realize that those people that we lose go to a better place and that many of them have had wonderful lives here. It's not easy but keeping memories of them is a pretty powerful thing.
L.P: Will you share some insight on your immediate family and their past and present careers.
M.P: I have a really great family and basically we all chose health care as our careers in some distinct way. It really starts with your parents to give you a foundation and I was fortunate to have my parents give me the opportunity as I was the first of my grandmother's grandchildren to earn a college degree. My mom's a registered nurse and my dad was a business person and an educator. They taught me a lot and I owe everything to them. My dad's now been gone for about five years and my mom's doing well. I have a younger brother who is the CEO of a health care organization in Manhattan and my sister is a CEO for a physicians group medical practice and soon to earn her nursing home administrators license. I have a brother who is retired from health care having put in over 25 years with the Masonic Home. There are a lot more folks in my family but that covers my brothers and sisters! One of my two children, Michael, is now a Ph.D pharmacist.
Upon completing my open-book, no-holds-barred interview with Michael Palmieri, I came to the conclusion that he exudes a rare quality in life that rises well beyond the norm to the highest level of excellence in the health care field. The world is full of beauty when your heart is filled with love.