Gary Marks, whose family was instrumental in transforming Glen Rose's hospital from a small-town facility to a modern medical center, looked back this week on his career after he announced plans to retire as chief executive officer of GRMC this November.

Marks, who is 62, said on May 6 he submitted his notice to the county Hospital Authority Board (the full text of his announcement is running on the Reporter' Web site, www.theglenrosereporter.com). His last day will be Nov. 6.

“It was time to retire,” Marks said. “I've spent 38 years in this position and it's time to retire and spent more time with my family.”

Marks has four grown children and nine grandchildren, including twins recently born. He and his wife, Vickie, plan to spend more time with them and to travel.

“I feel like the time was right for me and for this organization,” Marks added. “There are a lot of stable forces that been put in place with the board, the administrative staff and the department directors. There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of things to benefit this hospital.”

Marks said when he delivered the news to GRMC's department directors last week, many were shocked at the quickness of the decision, he said.

“I thought I'd wait until 65 until retire, but someone said you'll always know when the time comes to retire and this is the time,” Marks said.

Marks' father, Dr. Roger E. Marks, also spent 38 years with the hospital and his mother devoted 10 years.

“So there's been 86 years of our family providing health care in this community,” Marks said in an interview this week. “This facility has always been in the core of our purpose.”

Dr. John J. Hanna in 1944 built a hospital on the historic site of Barnard's Mill. It was sold to Dr. Marks and Dr. Robert English.

Mark's father moved his family from the East Coast to Glen Rose in 1949. Gary Marks recalls his father carrying a black bag, driving back roads and making house calls, often being paid with a sack of corn or a side of beef.

Meanwhile, Dr. English, fresh out of an internship at Parkland Charity Hospital in Dallas, also began practicing medicine in Glen Rose. He and Dr. Marks began the Marks-English Clinic and decided Glen Rose needed a modern medical facility. Dr. English, unfortunately, died in 1970, a year before the new complex opened on the site of today's medical center on Big Bend Trail. It included the Marks-English Hospital, the 26-bed Glen Rose Nursing Home and Drs. Marks-English & Associates Clinic.

Meanwhile, Gary Marks had received a master's degree in health care administration from Trinity University in San Antonio.

“My strength was math and numbers and business and knowing my dad was practicing medicine and not having adequate support to run the business,” Marks returned to Glen Rose, becoming CEO in 1974.

“I love Glen Rose and there are people here who have greatly influenced my life,” Marks said. “I wanted to give something back. It's been an honor and a privilege.”

The major challenge has been keeping up with the changes in rules and regulations that affect the hospital's finances, he said.

When the hospital ran into financial problems, Somervell County stepped up and agreed to take over GRMC and create a Hospital Authority Board to oversee the center. The move was controversial as many in the community didn't want their tax dollars going to a facility that was deep in the red. Marks often got the blame for the hospital's losses.

“Management has been criticized in the past because of the financial losses that have occurred at various times during the history of this operation, but that's going to happen in every community,” Marks said. “That's part of being the leader in an organization. You're going to get criticism. We've tried to identify where we are and where we have to go to keep the place viable.”

Many others, however, wanted to retain a modern medical facility in Glen Rose so residents didn't have to go out of town for medical care. In the year-and-a-half that the county board has assumed oversight, losses have improved, but the hospital faces more challenges.

Proposed cuts in Medicaid and Medicare spending could further cripple the hospital and nursing home financially if more people seek treatment in the ER, which is the most expensive form of care, and families cannot afford to pay for nursing home care, hospital officials have said.

On the positive side, the medical center has continued to modernize. Recently, it installed a new IT system, renovated its lobby, upgraded its emergency room and invested in new technology, including a 3-D CAT scan and digital mammography equipment. It also has aligned with Baylor Health Care to provide patients access to specialists in Glen Rose and has added a full-time general surgeon.

“I think this town should be extremely proud of what we're put together here,” Marks said. He praised the Hospital Authority board, medical center staff and department heads for helping the facility keep moving ahead at a time when small rural hospitals are at a disadvantage to large organizations.

But Marks said the medical center “absolutely” will move forward and continue serving the community.

“The challenges are going to get tougher,” he said. “They're definitely not going to go way. The state and federal government are going to continue to put financial pressure on us.

“The authority board, medical staff, management and department heads are all doing an excellent job,” he added. “I think that's one of the reasons, even though it's difficult to lose this position and retire, that this organization is in as good a shape it is.”