Community Remembers One Of Hospital’s Pioneers

BERLIN – The local medical community and the entire lower
shore lost a giant recently when Dr. Andrew Forgash, a pioneer in the effort to
establish Atlantic General Hospital (AGH), died unexpectedly from a cardiac
condition on March 15 at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury.

Forgash, 67, died in the hospital where he served as chief
of surgery for many years before devoting his energies to the creation of
Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin. He was the first Chief of Surgery at AGH
when the hospital opened in 1993 and is believed to be the first surgeon to
ever operate in the fledgling medical facility.

When he could no longer operate because of his failing
health, Forgash became a member of the AGH Board of Directors in 1996 and
played an important role in the hospital’s growth and development over the last
decade until nearly right up to the time of his death earlier this month.

The news of his passing sent shockwaves through the local
medical community Forgash helped foster nearly 15 years ago. In the 14 years,
since AGH opened in 1993, the local medical community has blossomed with a vast
network of physicians and medical offices sprouting up in the shadow of the
hospital, and Forgash is largely given credit for ushering in a new era of
quality medical care in an area where there was little before.

“We lost a huge supporter of Atlantic General Hospital,”
said AGH Board of Directors member Jay Bergey, who has been involved with the
hospital almost from the beginning. “He was instrumental in getting this
hospital up and running in the beginning and remained active in ensuring it
kept running and improving until the time of his death.”

Forgash was chief of surgery at the then Peninsula General
Hospital in the 1970s and 1980s and led a surgical team that provided services
to the hospital. When AGH opened in May 1993, Forgash and members of his
surgical group began providing services to the new medical facility. Among his
largest contributions was nurturing a growing medical community and luring
young physicians to the area.

“He was instrumental in providing surgery services in the
area when there was none,” said Bergey. “He brought his surgical group over
with him from PRMC in the beginning and he played an active role in attracting
and luring new doctors to the area. That was one of his biggest contributions,
because many years ago, this area wasn’t attractive for physicians. We now have
this blossoming medical community and Andy Forgash was a large part of that.”

Current Board of Directors member and former chairman
Regan Smith agreed Forgash was instrumental in the development of AGH and took
a chance on the new medical facility.

“He took a great risk coming over here,” he said. “He was
well established over in Salisbury and was chief of surgery at Peninsula, but
he had a vision for this new community hospital and he was instrumental in
getting it up and running.”

AGH Vice President of Public Relations Toni Keiser said
Forgash was a maverick of sorts by forging a trail that has led to the
establishment of a growing medical community in Berlin and Worcester County.

“From everything I’ve heard, there were very few
physicians in the area at the time and he certainly played a role in attracting
more physicians to the area,” she said. “He was a pioneer and a mentor for many
of the young doctors that moved into the area.”

Keiser said Forgash’s fingerprints were all over AGH. “I
was always inspired by his vision for what this hospital should be for this
community,” she said. “He had an expectation for quality that extended to every
phase of Atlantic General Hospital.”

After his initial bout with heart disease in 1996, Forgash
could no longer perform surgery, but he embarked on a second phase of his
service to AGH, joining the AGH Board of Directors in 1996 and mentored
hospital leaders on nearly every phase of the facility’s operation.

“Andy Forgash was a pillar of this community and a pioneer
for AGH,” said Bergey. “Even after he could no longer perform surgery, he was
invaluable to the hospital. We brought him on to the Board of Directors where
he offered endless support and advice.”

Shirley Pilchard, a former state delegate who has served
on the AGH Board of Directors for over a decade, was a close family friend of
Forgash and his wife Donna and delivered the eulogy at his funeral. Pilchard
said this week she fondly remembered listening to Forgash as he mentored the
board.

“When that grin appeared and his eyes lit up, I knew he
was about to feed me a bunch of blarney, but I fell for it every time,” she
said. “He would share his plethora of knowledge and we would all listen. He had
a great deal of respect because he had been there and done it.”

Pilchard said Forgash was a dedicated hospital
administrator who earned respect for his meticulous homework on hospital
issues.

“I learned quickly to listen to what Andy had to say
because he always backed it up with facts and figures,” she said.

Smith
agreed Forgash’s influence reached all corners of AGH..
“What a neat guy,” he said. “He had a huge amount of knowledge about running a
hospital. He was a surgeon first and foremost, but he understood the
administrative side. He did it all.” 

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