Covenant Health has named Patrick J. Birmingham, retired president and publisher of the Knoxville News Sentinel, as the health system’s vice president of philanthropy and governmental relations. His responsibilities became effective Nov. 20, 2017.
Birmingham’s responsibilities include oversight of the Covenant Health Office of Philanthropy’s comprehensive development program, including major gifts, planned giving, annual gift campaigns and special event fund raising. He will succeed Jeff Elliott, vice president of philanthropy, who is retiring after more than 13 years of service to Covenant Health.
During his tenure Elliott has led community fund raising initiatives for major health system projects such as the construction of LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville and Roane Medical Center in Harriman, which included raising $800,000 for the hospital’s chapel, on-call chaplain program and serenity garden. He also led a successful campaign to raise funds for the robotic surgery program at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge.
Elliott developed the Covenant Health Leadership Academy, which began in 2013 to help area business and community leaders learn about Covenant Health’s medical programs and services, and about current issues facing the healthcare industry. Several Leadership Academy graduates now serve as board members and event leaders for Covenant Health’s foundations.
“When I came to Covenant Health, it was my first opportunity to be part of a large health system,” Elliott said. “I have been privileged to work with knowledgeable medical professionals who have been gracious with their time and expertise, and with strong community leaders in counties throughout East Tennessee.”
“We are grateful for Jeff Elliott’s contributions to Covenant Health, and for his commitment to our patients through many successful fund raising campaigns,” said Jim VanderSteeg, president and CEO. “In addition to large-scale initiatives, he has enhanced planned giving opportunities and overseen popular foundation events in our local communities.”
The Office of Philanthropy manages five foundations that raise funds for Covenant Health facilities and programs: Fort Sanders Foundation, Thompson Cancer Survival Center Foundation, Methodist Hospital Foundation in Oak Ridge, Morristown-Hamblen Hospital Foundation, and the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation in Sevierville.
Patrick Birmingham also will have responsibilities for developing and maintaining relationships with government officials and legislative representatives, along with establishing health system policies and plans which align with government laws, regulations and standards.
“Patrick is an outstanding community leader who is known as a results-oriented decision maker,” said VanderSteeg. “In the important areas of philanthropy and governmental affairs, Covenant Health will benefit from his first-rate analytical skills, his business expertise, and his extensive experience in the communications industry.”
“Covenant Health is an exceptional organization dedicated to providing superior care to patients. Their ongoing commitment to excellence is focused on improving the quality of healthcare throughout East Tennessee,” Birmingham said. “I feel blessed to be joining this team of healthcare professionals as we continue the foundations’ mission of helping those less fortunate.”
Prior to joining the News Sentinel, Birmingham was president and publisher of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in Corpus Christi, Texas. During his tenure the Caller-Times was named “Newspaper of the Year” multiple times by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and in 2008 Birmingham was named “Newspaper Leader of the Year” by the Texas Daily Newspapers Association.
Birmingham has a long-standing interest in healthcare and its importance to communities. In Corpus Christi he served as board chairman for CHRISTUS Spohn Health System, a six-hospital health care system that is part of CHRISTUS Health, one of the top 10 Catholic health care systems in the U.S. He also served as a member of Covenant Health’s board of directors.
Birmingham studied at the University of Missouri. A strong believer in community involvement, he is past chairman and a current member of the Knoxville Chamber board of directors. He also serves on the boards of Second Harvest, United Way, and Helen Ross McNabb Center Foundation, as well as the University of Tennessee College of Nursing Advisory Board. In 2010 he led a community-wide effort to save the Knoxville Open professional golf tournament. Renamed the News Sentinel Open, the tournament has generated more than $500,000 in contributions to local charities since 2010.