Peconic Bay Medical Center former CEO Andrew Mitchell and his wife Mary at Monday's ceremony. Photo: Alek Lewis

Andrew Mitchell, the man who led Peconic Bay Medical Center through its transition from a struggling community hospital to a regional medical center during a two-decades long career in Riverhead, was celebrated during a ceremony by community leaders on Monday. Among the dedications, PBMC named the circle in front of the main entrance of the hospital “Mitchell’s Way” in his honor.

Around 100 people, including Mitchell’s colleagues, family and former employees gathered in the lawn in front of the hospital to surprise him with the ceremony. 

“Thank you so much for being here to honor, recognize and most importantly, express tremendous gratitude to Andy Mitchell for what he has done for not only Peconic Bay Medical Center, but truly for this community,” said Amy Loeb, the hospital’s executive director and Mitchell’s successor. “It’s extraordinary. What’s happened here is extraordinary. And we really owe Andy this time to say thank you.”

Hospital and community leaders recounted Mitchell’s lasting impact in the community and his legacy of transformation from when he joined PBMC — then Central Suffolk Hospital — in 2001 as CEO and president, to his last years at the hospital as leader of PBMC’s non-profit foundation.  

“Let’s not kid ourselves, when Andy arrived here 20 years ago, this hospital was on life support,” said Sherry Patterson, the chair of PBMC’s board of directors. “But he had a vision. And once we boarded the Andy train, there was no getting off.”

“Like the little engine that could, he just kept on going through all the obstacles, peaks, the valleys,” Patterson said. “Peconic Bay Medical Center came out on top, with Andy not saying ‘I think I can, I think I can.’ But ‘I know that we can’— and the results you see before you today.”

Stephen Bello, Northwell Health’s eastern regional executive director, reminisced about personal memories with Mitchell and hearing about his vision back in 2005 for making PBMC a regional medical center. PBMC joined the Northwell Health medical system in 2015.

“On behalf of Northwell, I would really like to thank Andy for everything he’s done. I’d really like to congratulate him on the legacy that he’s created here,” Bello said. “[A]t a certain point  in your career, you look back, you think about legacy — not the dollars and cents, not the comings and goings of personnel — you think about what you create in a sustainable manner for our community. I think what Andy and the team here has done has really made an impact on this community,”

Mitchell was also honored with a proclamation from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, given in person by county Health Commissioner Gregson Pigott, and with a Town of Riverhead pin by Supervisor Yvette Aguiar.

“I physically met you two and a half years ago, but I knew about your legend,” Aguiar said. “You came here under devastating circumstances with a mission. Just look back from day one. And look back to today. It’s amazing what you’ve done. And it all came about because of your leadership. It was a pleasure working with you.”

Loeb also gave Mitchell a new ID badge with his title as emeritus president and CEO, a glass award for his service, and announced the creation of an annual education scholarship in his name available to all Peconic Bay Medical Group employees. 

Loeb also presented Mitchell’s wife Mary with a flower arrangement “not only for putting up with you, Andy, but for the three o’clock in the morning phone calls, concerns about generators that come up at various periods of time, snow and hurricane shenanigans and other things that happened. And I know you always were there to support Andy, and we appreciate that,” she said.  

“There are not too many times I’ve become speechless, as many of you know, but I kind of am today. I didn’t expect any of this. So you kept it under wraps pretty well. And thank you, Amy, and everyone else involved,” Mitchell said.

“I just want to say that people are trying to give me the accolades for the vision and everything else. It really was, and will continue to be, a team effort. None of what we did, all of us did, would have been able to happen if it wasn’t for each and every one of you standing here and those who couldn’t be with us for the ceremony,” Mitchell said. 

“It is a remarkable hospital. It has unbelievable support from the doctors, the staff, the community, as a whole the Town of Riverhead,” he said. “The heritage is incredible. It was an honor to be part of it for 20 years. And it will really be an honor to watch it continue to grow over the next 20 years.”

To end the ceremony, PBMC staff members unveiled the new blue and white sign on the circle in front of the hospital in Mitchell’s honor.

“We all pull up to this hospital very proudly. And we always want to remember where we came from and who helped us get there — and Andy Mitchell you certainly have. And so in recognition of that, this will be forever known as Mitchell’s way,” Loeb said.

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Alek Lewis

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]