Inspirational journey

Paul Leighton, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
·4 min read

Apr. 8—BEVERLY — When Tom Sands was growing up in a working-class household in Macon, Georgia, he'd often ride along when his father dropped off his mother at the local hospital, where she worked as a registered nurse in the operating room for 40 years.

Sands volunteered at the hospital as a teenager and eventually launched his own career in health care, at one point working at the same hospital in an office down the hall from his mother.

"That connection of a parent going to work at the hospital and making a difference in people's lives in a respected professional position was something that appealed to me," he said.

The journey inspired by his mother has now brought Sands to the North Shore. On Monday, he started his new job as president of Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester.

Sands, 59, takes over for Phil Cormier, who retired on April 2. Nancy Palmer, the chair of the board of trustees, said Cormier left the hospitals in good shape financially, and that Sands has the experience and personality to move them to the next level.

"Tom is stepping into a well-positioned organization," Palmer said. "We believe he can come and take that role and bring it forward."

Sands, who has master's degrees in business administration and health administration from Georgia State University and a bachelor's degree in biology from Morehouse College, began his career as a certified pulmonary functions technologist at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He then spent 20 years in leadership positions at Navicent Health, a teaching hospital in Georgia.

With their two sons grown and out of the house, Sands said he and his wife, Michelle, decided to be open to new ideas and approach life "boldly and audaciously."

"We called it 'bold-aciously,'" he said. "That's why a family originally from Georgia said we would have a New England experience. And it's been a very positive one."

Sands took a job as chief operating officer at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton. In 2018, he was named president of Carney Hospital in Dorchester. In his new role, he'll be in charge of not only Beverly and Addison Gilbert hospitals, but also BayRidge Hospital in Lynn and the Lahey Outpatient Center in Danvers.

"I'm very excited about joining and leading this team and being part of this community," he said.

According to the Hospital Compare website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Beverly and Addison Gilbert hospitals (under the umbrella name of Northeast Hospital Corporation) have an overall rating of three stars, out of a possible five. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade website gives both hospitals an 'A'.

Beverly and Addison Gilbert became part of Beth Israel Lahey Health as part of a 2019 merger that formed the second-largest health system in Massachusetts. Palmer said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the hospitals in the system to work together on such issues as finding available emergency room space for patients.

"It showed that we can work together and look out for the best interests of patients and the communities that we serve," Palmer said.

Sands said he has always been involved in the communities where he works. In one of his first jobs he helped start a health center in a housing project. He also started a mentorship program in Georgia targeting teenage boys from homes headed by single mothers. He has served on the boards of organizations such as the Tubman Museum and 100 Black Men of Macon-Middle Georgia and the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston.

Sands said he plans to become just as involved here. He and his wife currently live in Braintree and are looking for a home on the North Shore.

"It's important to me that not only am I a good administrator, but part of that includes being a community-related person," he said. "There's a joy and a happiness in being involved in various community groups, providing mentoring for youth and serving as a role model."

Palmer said Sands is well-suited to the role of becoming the face of Beverly and Addison Gilbert in their communities.

"He's very personable," she said. "He's a very good listener. Operationally he's very strong. I think he'll be very well accepted. It's exciting to bring on a new leader that way."

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.