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Editorial: With appreciation for ‘a more excellent way’

Perhaps we take it for granted from time to time, that sprawling campus in Cooperstown. Fox Hospital, too, in Oneonta, and all the clinics and centers and caregiver offices filling the map in Otsego County.

In a nation whose rural regions are often challenged by a lack of access to quality health care or relegated to satellite status dozens of miles away from even the nearest emergency clinic, we’re fortunate indeed.

Fortunate that 100 years ago this week, the doors opened on a hospital in the Village of Cooperstown, named after Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett to honor her steadfast dedication to caring for the people of her rural county. Fortunate, too, that Edward Severin Clark made building the hospital a philanthropic priority, that his brother, Stephen Clark, reopened its doors in 1927 as a medical, research, and teaching hospital, and that the Clark family and Scriven Foundation have, in the 10 decades intervening, kept Bassett and the communities it serves foremost in their work.

A century ago, there was no such thing as a “healthcare industry.” Messrs. Edward and Stephen Clark and the doctors with whom they worked at the time could not have foreseen the seismic changes that would overhaul local, regional, and national health care many times over in the decades to come. Predictive sciences and artificial intelligence available today may give us a better idea of what’s on or over the horizon, but the model the hospital’s founders created in the 1920s remains a foundation for whatever is to come.

Today’s healthcare industry is exactly that – out of necessity, a big business that to stay afloat must be flexible, forward-thinking, and growth-oriented. Bassett – once a standalone hospital in the southeastern corner of the Village – could not be immune from those changes if it was to survive. To thrive and continue to serve our rural population, it had to expand to what we now know as the more corporate-sounding Bassett Healthcare Network.

Business smarts and resiliency aren’t even the half of it, though – a healthcare network, in the end, succeeds only when the communities it serves believe and trust in it. It’s a deeply personal and emotional experience for each individual who walks through the door of a clinic, an office, an emergency room. Bassett succeeds. A big business, perhaps, but one with a small town feel that respects its rural roots.

“There are two things that strike me as Bassett’s greatest assets today,” Bassett Healthcare Network President and CEO Dr. Tommy Ibrahim said in a statement to The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. “The first is this sure foundation provided by Mary Imogene Bassett and our other founders. The second is the hard work, dedication, and excellence of our caregivers and practitioners as they build on that foundation.”

We agree, and we applaud Dr. Ibrahim and his predecessors, the Clark Family, the Scriven Foundation, board members, staff, caregivers, and practitioners past and present throughout the Bassett Healthcare Network who have served us for the past century. It’s a hard-won achievement that can’t rest on the laurels we toss in their direction today, but it is a legacy and a future that we do not take for granted and for which we are genuinely grateful.


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