Welcome Antony Sheehan

The Church Health Center has a new president, Antony Sheehan. He moved his family all the way from Leicestershire, England, to join us in the broad array of work we do.

Antony and I met in the context of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement in Boston, an organization that has been helping us with our “Healthy Shelby” effort in our local county. Antony, who was in a fellowship at IHI because of his impressive career in healthcare systems in England, got so curious about our work that he came to visit the Church Health Center.

And fell in love.

Antony expected to return to England, but I really hoped he wouldn’t. He had every reason to go back to England—a thriving career where he has made a huge difference working at senior levels in the national health system. Grown children. A grandchild. It’s tough to compete with a grandchild. But I wanted Antony to come and help lead the Church Health Center. After his visit, I told him to go away for a week, and if he found himself thinking about nothing but the Church Health Center then he should call me.

He called. We got excited. We made plans. He went back to England to prepare for a permanent move to the United States. Then last Christmas U.S. Immigration denied his visa application to come to work at the Center. He and I were both devastated. After a very sad phone call with me, he went for a walk along the canals that run through his home city of Leicester. As he approached a canal boat, he saw it bore a logo he recognized. It was the logo of Sun Studio, the Memphis recording label that launched Elvis Presley. As he got closer he saw a decal that said “TCB,” short for Elvis’s slogan, “Taking Care of Business.” As he got closer still, Antony realized the name of the boat itself was Graceland.

You can’t make up stuff like this.

Eventually the visa questions were sorted out, and Antony is here with his wife and two youngest children. He began as president on October 1. I am not leaving the Church Health Center. I am the chief executive officer and Antony is the president. Someone said (and I am flattered), “It will be like Bear Bryant and Nick Saban coaching the same team.” I hope that is right.

Was it coincidence that the Graceland canal boat was in that spot at that moment? I have come to regard it as providence, reassurance for Antony—and all of us at the Church Health Center—that his future lay with us.

Antony and I will both tell you we sobbed that day last December, both when we got the news of his visa denial and again when he told me the story of the canal boat. While I am sure we are bound to have philosophical differences (you want me to believe that Bear Bryant and Nick Saban would agree on everything?), the bond we share because of the time of tribulation we experienced together will weather a long list of petty disagreements.

I’m glad to be starting the new year with Antony in the Church Health Center boat.

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