If you’ve ever visited HCA Healthcare’s Putnam Community Medical Center in Palatka, Florida – you’ve likely ran into Willie Wright, a 50-year hospital colleague who’s been there almost since the beginning and has added to the hospital’s legacy in immeasurable ways. In celebration of Willie’s 50th work anniversary and well-deserved retirement, take a look at his journey to improve the lives of more people in more ways at HCA Healthcare…

To some, March 12 may be an insignificant day on the calendar, but to the staff, volunteers, and current and former patients at Putnam Community Medical Center, it will always be “Willie Day.”

Willie Wright, or “Mr. Willie” as most people know him, began his career at HCA Healthcare’s Putnam Community Medical Center (PCMC) in Palatka, Florida on March 8, 1971. During his 50-year tenure at the hospital, he served in many roles including ED technician and, most recently, transporter for surgical services – a role so prominent patients often think Mr. Willie performed their surgeries as he was the first person who greeted them and the last person they saw when leaving the hospital.

In this and every position Willie held at PCMC over the past five decades, his compassion and attentiveness put every patient and their family at ease. Described by peers as “the emotional anchor of the hospital,” team members and managers know Willie as an experienced colleague with a kind heart and a genuine smile, willing to help no matter the task at hand. It is thanks to people like Willie, who epitomize the “care like family” mantra, that HCA Healthcare has been able to have such a positive impact on surrounding communities in Putnam County for nearly two decades.

Willie Wright, HCA Healthcare colleague at Putnam Community Medical Center (pictured left).

In the same year Willie started his career with Putnam Community Medical Center, 1971, HCA Healthcare established the Frist Humanitarian Award, named in honor of HCA Healthcare co-founder, Dr. Thomas F. Frist, Sr. (1910 – 1998). The award honors individuals within HCA Healthcare who demonstrate a level of commitment and caring that goes beyond everyday acts of kindness, and who inspire colleagues with their compassion and dedication. To know Willie would go on to receive this award years later is a happy coincidence but by no means a surprise to his colleagues. This award was created for people like Willie, who lives out the ideals of Dr. Frist who once said, “Be happy in your community. Be active. There is so much good to do in this world and so many different ways to do it.”

In addition to his tireless service to the hospital, Willie has also dedicated his life to serving his country, his church and his community. An active member of the Army Reserves for 23 years, he worked as a Mess Sergeant supervising kitchen personnel and provisions. As a life-long parishioner of Calvary Baptist Church, he acted as superintendent of Sunday School and lent his voice to the men’s choir.

Among these noble passions, Willie is perhaps best known in the community for his work with the youth. For more than 60 years, he officiated sporting events and coached various sports teams throughout Putnam County. While the number of games and practices he volunteered at may be impossible to count, his impact on the children he encountered is undeniable. He didn’t just impart technical knowledge and passion for the game – but taught them the true meaning of teamwork and perseverance. Such valuable lessons he also shared in working with his hospital colleagues and giving them that extra dose of encouragement when it was needed.

Willie has been married to his wife Pearl for 30 years and is a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He has a passion for travel, which has taken him all around the world including South Africa, Jerusalem, China, Germany, Korea and Europe. Willie hopes to do more traveling in this next phase of his life, although he jokingly adds, “There’s not too many places I haven’t already been.”

As Willie celebrates his momentous 50-year career milestone and a well-deserved retirement this March, he will always be a part of the HCA Healthcare family. While he may no longer walk the hospital halls offering a helping hand and a kind word, he can rest easy knowing that this legacy will endure. When asked to share a final piece of advice for his friends and colleagues, Willie answered, “Just be yourself and do the best you can to help people as you go through life. It’s as simple as that.”

By setting the example and showing how we can all strive to improve more lives in more ways, Willie’s kindness and generosity will have bearing throughout the community for generations to come – not just on “Willie Day,” but every day of the year.

Founded in 1968, Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services with 185 hospitals and approximately 2,000 ambulatory sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers and physician clinics, in 20 states and the United Kingdom.