Despite an hour commute each way from Westerville to Mansfield, Jean Halpin, the new president of OhioHealth MedCentral Hospital, has no plans to leave the city she’s been familiar with since her days at St. Francis DeSales.
“Westerville is a neat community,” the recently promoted Halpin said. “The partnership between the city, the school, the chamber, the employers that are based there, it has really demonstrated how collaboratively you can work together to promote community health and wellness.”
And that collaborative effort has largely defined Halpin’s rise to president of MedCentral at only 45 years old. After graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in occupational therapy in 1992, Halpin has worked her way from the clinical side of the job all the way to the business side.
“I started with a clinical background; I actually treated patients, registered patients, worked collaboratively with physicians,” she said. “And as I progressed in my career, I realized very quickly that when I was treating a patient, I could help one patient at a time. But as I moved more toward administration, I could help a whole community.”
Halpin has held several positions in the medical community, and was the chief operations officer of OhioHealth before accepting the Mansfield position. She helped the company build and open its Westerville Medical Campus in 2008, and oversaw its expansion in 2010 as its director of operations.
The transition from occupational therapy graduate to the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year in 2010 – and chairman of its board of directors in 2013 – was a long one, but the journey, she said, has made her more well-rounded.
“What you do is you look across to the person you’re dealing with. I always say, ‘Meet the person where they’re at,’ ” she said, “whether I’m treating a patient, trying to explain a business plan, trying to partner with a community partner – and understand what their needs are, their wants are, and how we can work together for the greater win.”
But her love of Westerville isn’t the only thing keeping her here. Her sister is schizophrenic, and Halpin is raising her sister’s three children, including her youngest, a son who is autistic. Halpin said she was “very lucky” to get him into Westerville’s Oakstone Academy, and had to prioritize the children’s well-being over her own commute.
“When the offer was made to take this position in Mansfield, I normally feel very strong about being part of the community and living in the community, and that’s where I had been very successful at OhioHealth working at the Westerville Medical Campus,” she said. “But from a personal and family standpoint, sometimes you have to make decisions not directly about your career, but about the welfare of others.
“So I said that I would go to Mansfield and I’ll do the commute and I’ll be very engaged in the community, but I needed to make the right decision for my youngest. So at this time, we’re going to stay in Westerville.”
Partially because of experience with her sister and nephew, Halpin has become an active advocate for those with mental illness and autism, and makes it a priority in her line of work.
“I’m very blessed being in the industry that I’m in,” she said. “As I’m transitioning up to Mansfield, I’m getting to know how their mental health services have gone for Richland County.
“I come from the family perspective much more than the business perspective, in realizing that when there are challenges, it’s not just what you see in your emergency room or in your psych unit or in your community health center. It’s what you have to deal with day in and day out.”
For now, Halpin is finishing her transition period into the role in Mansfield alongside current acting President and CEO Joe Chamberlain, who is in his last week with the company. Halpin said Mansfield is a “beautiful community,” and that she looks forward to building the same local rapport as she has done in Westerville.
“Even though I have competitors in the Westerville area with Mount Carmel St. Ann’s and (Nationwide) Children’s (Hospital), we have actually come together to work on projects to make the community better,” she said. “Whether it’s something supporting schools or supporting the city or supporting health and wellness, we can set aside our normal competitiveness and come together.
“I really look forward to doing that in Mansfield, and I’ve already started to reach out to area communities like Ashland on how we can work better together as part of OhioHealth, but also just as good neighbors.”