When Doug Stroemel reflects on his many years at Mercy, it’s not his accomplished career or long list of achievements that make him happiest. Instead, it’s the stories about his colleagues and patients he cherishes the most.

“Mercy has been such a huge part of my life,” said Stroemel, who is retiring after 16 years with Mercy. “It’s hard to think of leaving the incredible physicians, nurses, managers, volunteers – really, everyone. They’re a great team and I consider them my family. Moving on is truly bittersweet.”

Those feelings are mutual, says Nicki Gamet, executive director of operations at Mercy hospitals in Aurora and Cassville. “Doug embodies the Mercy mission and is truly a wonderful leader, mentor and friend. We are going to miss Doug so much at Mercy, and we know the community will, too,” she said.

On Friday, Stroemel’s impressive tenure as administrator at three Mercy hospitals comes to a close. He’s retiring from Mercy Hospitals Aurora, Berryville and Cassville.

“Challenging, yet extremely rewarding,” is how Stroemel sums it up. “It’s been an honor to work in this health care ministry, following in the footsteps of the Sisters of Mercy, and having the privilege to help bring much-needed care to three rural communities every day.”

Stroemel’s journey began in Hays, Kansas, where he graduated from St. Joseph Military Academy in 1970, enrolled in pre-med at Fort Hays State University, then applied as an orderly at Hadley Regional Medical Center (now Hays Medical Center). “They ended up offering me a position as a respiratory therapist, and that on-the-job learning experience helped launch my health care career.”

Stroemel graduated with his associate’s degree in respiratory therapy from Wichita State University, and then returned as director of Hadley’s respiratory therapy department. “I spent 22 years there,” Stroemel said proudly. “I was also honored to help establish a flight program with nearby Wesley Medical Center, serving more than seven years as a flight paramedic. It was an incredible experience."

Following a three-year break from health care, during which he and his wife Norma owned and operated their own business, Stroemel had his first connection with Mercy Hospital Cassville in 1996. “I served as the supervisor of respiratory therapy only a short time until a family tragedy re-routed my wife and I to Kansas to be near our daughter,” Stroemel recalled.

From there, he became the director of cardio-pulmonary and nuclear medicine at Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital in Hastings, Nebraska, where he served four years in that role.

“I realized how much I missed Mercy and the great people there, so Norma and I developed plans to move back to the Ozarks,” Stroemel said. “We have lived in Shell Knob ever since.”

Stroemel returned to Mercy as manager of respiratory therapy and cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation, later attending Drury and Webster universities to further his education. He quickly took on more administrative duties not just in Cassville, but also Aurora, where he was promoted to vice president and chief operating officer in 2007. Three years later, he became administrator at both Mercy Hospital Aurora and Mercy Hospital Cassville. In 2015, he assumed the same role at Mercy Hospital Berryville.

“Health care has certainly changed a lot in the last 16 years,” Stroemel reflected, “but the core of what we do, focusing on what’s best for our patients, hasn’t changed. And that’s clear by our ongoing Joint Commission accreditations and hospital honors over the years. We’ve worked so hard to bring quality care to more rural communities, and we’re proud to expand our specialty services like cardiology, stroke care, general surgery and more.”

Stroemel is certain the great work will continue after he departs Mercy. Gamet, who has served at Mercy for 20 years, will assume the role of administrator in both Aurora and Cassville; Mercy is in the process of hiring for the administrator position in Berryville.

“Doug leaves behind quite a legacy,” said Jenine Vincent, vice president of regional operations for Mercy. “He’s been such a blessing to our community for the last 16 years. We will miss him dearly, but celebrate the gift of time he will receive.”

As tough as it may be for Stroemel to focus more on himself, he’s determined to enjoy the things that come with retirement, such as travel, home remodeling, lake time and, most importantly, people. “We have four grandchildren and a great-grandchild coming in early 2018, so spending time with family tops the list,” he said.

Meanwhile, Stroemel’s best piece of advice to the next generation of leadership happens to be the words of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy. “Only the best for those entrusted to our care,” Stroemel quoted. “It’s a reminder that, even though it can be easy to get wrapped up in other things, it’s so important to focus on the needs of our patients.”