NEW ALBANY — Four decades in any position is quite the tenure.

In that time, the United States has seen seven presidents serve in office. Floyd County grew by roughly a third since 1980, gaining 20,000 residents.

Here to witness all of the change that's occurred nationwide and locally is Dr. Dan Eichenberger. When he was just 15 years old in 1978, he began his career at Baptist Health Floyd as an orderly.

Eichenberger's dedication to the hospital paid off as he worked his way up over the decades, eventually taking over as president and CEO in 2015. After 41 years, however, he is now leaving his post, effective Friday. He will also step away from his medical practice at the end of the year.

"It's bittersweet," Eichenberger, 56, said. "There are definitely mixed emotions. I have a lot of friends, and my whole life has been related to this hospital. It's a little scary to take this step and move away from it."

On Thursday, hospital employees and volunteers gathered to celebrate Eichenberger's decades of service. Among them was Lisa Shoopman, director of hospitality services, who has been with the hospital for 12 years.

Part of Shoopman's duties include overseeing environmental services, a position previously filled by Eichenberger on his journey through the ranks.

"It's inspiring," Shoopman said of his rise. "It inspires us all to dream big and to never settle. Dr. Eichenberger did it. My employees coming in at entry level see that. There are bigger opportunities."

During her time at the hospital, Shoopman said several improvements have been made, with a high patient satisfaction rate being achieved. When she took over her current position five years ago, Eichenberger came in and told his story to the staff at the department's first meeting.

"He's very real, and he's genuine," Shoopman said. "He cares about each and every associate here and every patient. His heart has been at this hospital. Under his leadership as president, he's helped us become the strong organization that we are. Dr. Eichenberger has helped to make all of this happen. Without him, we wouldn't have the capital to make these improvements and to move us forward to where we need to be."

James Gunn has been a chaplain at the hospital for roughly three years now, tending to the spiritual well-being of patients and employees alike. Seeing how Eichenberger handles himself at the hospital has been a model for young professionals like Gunn.

"One of the things that I've witnessed from him is that he wants us to be excellent in what we do, but he also wants to bring humanity to the people that we care for at the hospital," Gunn said. "It's to not see them as a room number, but to see them as an individual with faith and values. That's what he's tried to instill in us."

Taking over for Eichenberger on an interim basis will be 59-year-old Matt Bailey, who brings with him 34 years of experience in healthcare. The search for a permanent successor is currently underway.

As far as the future goes for Eichenberger, he says he's already fielded a number of inquiries. He plans to travel the country doing interim CEO work in addition to working in medical consulting.

"As a Christian, God has opened doors already that I never thought would have been opened," he said. "I've already had a lot of opportunities, phone calls and emails. The question is going to be how to prioritize the opportunities and move forward."

Despite having a break after four decades of hard at work, Eichenberger said rest and relaxation is a possibility, though not a guarantee.

"There are no plans at this point," he said. "Nothing's off the table. I'm not good at [unwinding]. If there's an opportunity to work, I'll probably take it."

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