Pollard serves family, neighbors at hometown hospital
Dennis Pollard’s job gives him a special opportunity to serve people who made a difference in his life as he grew up.
“These are the people who, when I was a kid, gave me a great life. We had Little League, parades, summer camps, all because of these folks in the community and the quality of life they established for us. To be able to give something back to them, I feel really blessed to have the opportunity to do that.”
Pollard is president of Community Memorial Hospital in Menomonee Falls, Wis., where he grew up and now lives. He also serves as chief operating officer for Froedtert Health regional network – with three hospitals and more than 30 clinics – and president of the network’s community hospital division, so his work affects not only his hometown but a wider southeastern Wisconsin community.
Pollard sees his three executive roles as an extension of the hands-on care he once provided as a physical therapist.
“Why did I want to become a physical therapist?” Pollard asked. “I wanted to make a difference in the lives of other people. Am I still doing that? I feel fortunate to be able to say, ‘Yes.’”
Earning his bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from Marquette University, Pollard worked for eight years at Milwaukee’s VA Hospital, eventually serving as supervisor of the neurology section. He then moved on to St. Mary’s Medical Center (now All Saints) in Racine, Wis., to set up their rehabilitation unit and expand their physical medicine and rehabilitation program. This was his first experience leading people in different disciplines.
“I found a mentor there, and he saw things in me that I never expected. He said, ‘You might want to consider getting an advanced degree because I think you could have broader leadership potential.’”
In the mid-1980s, Pollard enrolled in Stritch’s Master of Science in Health Administration program.
“I knew if I was going to be a leader in an environment like health care, I had to enhance my financial acumen, my strategic planning, and all those things that I wasn’t prepared for in my undergraduate program.”
Shortly after finishing his master’s program in 1990, Pollard returned to his hometown and began working at Community Memorial Hospital as the program manager for Rehabilitation Services. He also worked in business development, establishing joint ventures with physicians, setting up satellite clinics, and developing new services.
“I was able to leverage my clinical background using some of the business and leadership skills I learned at Stritch.”
In 1994, Pollard took his first executive role as vice president of ambulatory care.
“That led me into a role related to strategic planning for the hospital, which led me to the process where we formed Froedtert & Community Health in 2001.”
Following that merger between Community Memorial Hospital and Froedtert Hospital, Pollard led the consolidation of the system’s administrative departments to eliminate duplication of services and allow the system to speak with one voice.
“I never really envisioned myself as a health system executive,” said Pollard, who became chief operating officer and senior vice president of Froedtert Health in 2007. “I never strived for that. You try to do the best you can, and I was always blessed to have people say, ‘Would you be interested in taking on this next thing?’”
Pollard said in both his professional and personal endeavors, he strongly believes that all should be done “ad majorem Dei gloriam” (to the greater glory of God). He relies on his faith to guide his work as he serves the greater community – and even members of his own family – in matters of life and death.
“Literally in the same moments, you have new lives coming into the world and you have individuals who are passing on. We’re here to help families and individuals through that part of the journey. It’s an honor to do that, to have that trust.”
Pollard’s deep sense of service extends to his work outside the office. For nearly 30 years, Pollard volunteered his physical therapy services at a veterans’ rehabilitation camp in northern Wisconsin. In addition, he served as president of his local chamber of commerce and coached numerous kids’ sports team, and is also a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Pollard is married with three grown children. His first grandchild was born in March…at Community Memorial Hospital.