NORWAY – He turned his interest in numbers into a career helping people stay healthy.

Although Timothy Churchill’s academic and early professional background is finance and accounting, he doesn’t sound much like a numbers guy when he talks about maintaining the wellness of a community, a task that requires much more than skillful statistics.

Churchill is president and chief executive officer of Western Maine Health, which includes Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Market Square Health Care Center in Paris and various affiliates. He has held the job for 10 years and said, despite a career that has had numerous turns and jumps, that he’s happy to stay.

He grew up in Waterville and attended graduate school in Maine. But he left the state in 1972, staying away for 24 years to work in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, before returning to this state to take his current job in 1996.

“All this time I never dreamed I would ever come back to Maine,” the 57-year-old said in an interview Friday, saying he and his wife, Donna, and three children were happy in Philadelphia.

But he’s pleased to be back and says this is a wonderful state to raise a family, and also a place where someone with drive can accomplish a lot.

“You can make a difference if you’re willing to work hard,” he said. His wife works part-time as a school nurse at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School and his 13-year-old son is a Hebron Academy student. His daughters, 31 and 34, live in Arizona and California, where they work as a teacher and a nurse. He said he prefers spending his free time with his family, hiking, skiing and boating.

Churchill did not specialize in health-care studies at the university. Rather, the health-care field in some ways found him, but not before a religious organization did.

After graduating from University of Maine in 1972, Churchill took a job with the national offices of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

“I didn’t land in the job because I was religious,” he said. “I was interested in accounting and finance.”

But he is currently involved with Christ Episcopal Church in Norway, because he said it’s important to him to be active in the community. He also sits on the board of the Growth Council of Oxford Hills, the nonprofit based in Paris that is active in regional development.

And it was also his interest in accounting and finance that led him to his next job, working for the Medical College of Pennsylvania, a teaching hospital.

“My focus has always been finance,” he said. But at that college, he learned a lot about hospital management. This knowledge would fuel the rest of his career as he took jobs with greater responsibilities at various health-care organizations. Eventually, a head hunter called him to ask him to consider taking the Norway job.

During his career, finance was put on the back burner, and Churchill’s efforts became more trained on community health. This forms the foundation of his current job.

“The system’s focus is to help make the people the healthiest they can be,” he said of Western Maine Health. And helping people be healthy means more than offering medical care, but also targeting problems like smoking, obesity and mental health illnesses.

“I’m very happy to be part of this system,” he said. “I think it’s a system that makes a difference.”

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