Retiring Passama posing next to portrait

End of the Passama Era

There were hugs and tears, memories and some good-natured ribbing when longtime NorthBay Healthcare President and CEO Gary Passama said goodbye to employees during his last week on the job in March.

He started his farewell tour at NorthBay Medical Center, where he began his career as CEO 35 years ago. Employees streamed in to the room to sign his goodbye book, enjoy some healthy treats or a piece of cake, and pose with the man some call “Mr. NorthBay.”

As was his weekly routine, the well-respected CEO made the rounds of all of the health system's campuses during the final days of his tenure.

In 1981 he arrived to serve as CEO of what was then Intercommunity Hospital, now NorthBay Medical Center, in Fairfield. As the locally managed healthcare organization grew, Passama's role burgeoned. Six years later, the one-hospital operation would become NorthBay Healthcare, which would grow over time to comprise two hospitals, four campuses, a medical group of 100 physicians and providers, a workforce of 2,800 employees, a philanthropic foundation and an array of advanced medical services, from trauma to neuroscience.

Passama holding up NorthBay and Mayo collaboration flyer

Passama, a proud product of the University of California, Berkeley, earned a bachelor's degree with honors in business administration and a master's degree in Public Health in hospital administration from UC Berkeley in 1970 and 1972, respectively.

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve our community with my colleagues here,” Passama said. “During my tenure I have had the privilege to work alongside countless individuals who always put our patients first, who are dedicated to bring compassionate care, advanced medicine, close to home.”

Under his guidance, the local health system became a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a collaboration that gives its patients access to the most trusted health care experts in the world. NorthBay Healthcare specialists now consult with Mayo Clinic specialists, researchers and scientists on complex cases.

A major $58 million addition to the campus of NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville was complete, comprising the 110,000-square-foot VacaValley Wellness Center that houses the state-of-the-art NorthBay Cancer Center, which was relocated from the Fairfield hospital campus, along with HealthSpring Fitness, a medical fitness center.

On the NorthBay Medical Center campus in Fairfield work continued on a $200 million modernization project that includes a new welcome pavilion, a larger emergency department, a new cafeteria and a three-story addition to house surgery suites and 22 “patient rooms of the future.”

During Passama's administration, Vacaville's first hospital, NorthBay VacaValley Hospital, was built, mustering community support to finance it. Other milestones include these “firsts” for the communities in Solano County:

  • NorthBay Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • NorthBay Cancer Center
  • NorthBay Level II Trauma Center
  • NorthBay Center for Neuroscience, with neurosurgery and spine surgery
  • NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center with open-heart surgery capability

Passama served on Solano Community College Foundation board of directors and was chairman of the board of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce.

He and his wife, Judy, remain residents of Fairfield.