Nuvance names new president at Sharon Hospital
Christina McCulloch was appointed new president at Sharon Hospital.
Photo by Marina Ballantine

Nuvance names new president at Sharon Hospital

SHARON — Nuvance Health appointed Christina McCulloch as the new president of Sharon Hospital, replacing Dr. Mark Hirko, who has held the post since December of 2019. 

McCulloch, a long-time Litchfield County resident, has worked with the hospital for more than eight years, most recently serving as its chief nursing officer. 

In making the announcement on Wednesday, June 8, Sharon Hospital’s parent company, which owns a network of hospitals in Western Connecticut and the Hudson Valley, said McCulloch will begin her new role in the coming weeks. President Hirko will remain part of the Sharon Hospital leadership team in an advisory role as he transitions to serve as the full-time president of Putnam Hospital in Carmel, New York.

“We are re-affirming our commitment to the communities we serve by appointing a unique leadership team at each of our hospitals,” said Dr. John Murphy, president and CEO of Nuvance Health. “We know Christina is the right candidate to lead the hospital at this pivotal moment in healthcare.

“Christina’s extensive educational background, deep experience as a clinician and time as a trusted leader rising through the ranks at Sharon Hospital have proven her unyielding commitment to high-quality, compassionate patient care.”

A tumultuous time in the hospital’s history

The transition in leadership at Sharon Hospital comes at a time of transformation and controversy for the 78-bed community hospital. In September 2021, Nuvance Health and Sharon Hospital announced plans to shutter its Labor and Delivery Unit and pare down the facility’s intensive care unit to a progressive care unit.

That decision resulted in a swift and fierce outcry from the community, an investigation by the state and a grassroots effort to force the hospital, which also serves Dutchess and Columbia Counties in New York, to maintain its full-service status. 

McCulloch said she is confident that the planned transformation will strengthen services identified as the community’s greatest areas of need, while connecting patients with advance care and services offered within the Nuvance Health System. 

McCulloch, who has played a central role in the transformation plan from its earliest planning stages, said she will continue partnering with Hirko to ensure that the hospital remains sustainable and vibrant within the community for future generations.

“Our end goal is positive,” noted McCulloch.

More than 180 rural and community hospitals have closed in the United States since 2005, and The Center for Health Care Quality and Payment Reform had identified Sharon Hospital at a “high risk for closing.”

McCulloch, who has three daughters – a set of twins, age 12, and a 13-year-old – said she understands that the hospital’s decision to cut services, particularly labor and delivery, is a controversial one. “Sometimes the decisions that have to be made are very hard and definitely we all understand how important these services have been to the community.”

The hospital’s new leader added that, while not everyone may agree with the plan, she is determined to foster trust and enhance communication by “continuing to be transparent and connected, and to listen to the perspectives of others.”

Career began at the bedside

McCulloch has been a clinician for nearly two decades and has worked at Sharon Hospital since 2014, serving as director of nursing, director of quality and performance improvement, and chief quality officer. 

She previously worked at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury and Griffin Hospital in Derby, where she began her career at the bedside as a staff nurse. McCulloch has a Masters of Business Administration in Healthcare Management from Quinnipiac University, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Western Connecticut State University, and an Associate Degree in Nursing From St. Vincent’s College.

“My career as both a registered nurse and as a clinical leader at Sharon Hospital has shown me how truly special our community is,” said McCulloch. The new hospital president said the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic further heightened her respect and admiration for her colleagues.

“The thing I am most proud of is the staff at Sharon Hospital, the way they came together and cared for the community…it was humbling to see. But I certainly hope it is something we don’t have to ever experience again.”

Hirko thanked Sharon Hospital’s patients and staff for trusting his leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and as a steward of “this invaluable community resource.” 

He said he has no doubt that McCulloch “is the best person to continue this commitment to our community. I have witnessed first-hand her dedication to our staff and patients, as well as her skill as a capable leader with a rare talent for remaining calm and forward-looking, even in times of crisis.” 

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