March 23, 2005 - Northwest Medical Center is holding a national search for a new leader following last week's retirement announcement of Chief Executive Officer Jeff Comer.

Comer, 60, leave his current position as head of Northwest Health System and Northwest Medical Center in December to spend more time with his wife and two dogs while traveling around the country, he said.

"I have been working all of my life. Even as a small boy I have worked," Comer said. "We just want to have time to do some of the things that we really want to do."

Comer, originally from Nashville, Tenn., has been in hospital administration for 39 years and said his time in Tucson and at Northwest Medical Center has been his most valuable. He admitted that it is exciting to think about retiring, but said the idea of leaving the family community he has helped build at the hospital is also bittersweet.

"It's been a long career with a lot of good memories, and Northwest Medical Center tops the list," he said.

Since Comer became CEO in 1997, he has been responsible for major expansions, overseeing more than $165 million in renovations and expansions to the hospital on La Cholla Boulevard and construction of several satellite facilities.

Comer was instrumental in the opening of Arizona's first freestanding women's hospital, an outpatient surgery center, two urgent care facilities, and outpatient clinics in nearby communities. He was also responsible for the South Tucson obstetrics clinic.

Northwest Medical Center Oro Valley, which opened its doors in January, was also under the leadership of Comer, along with the outpatient and urgent care clinic under construction in Marana.

Northwest Medical Center has won four Top 100 Hospitals awards, honors that Comer has been an integral part of, according to Wayne McAlister, division president for the hospital's parent company, Triad Hospitals.

"Jeff has been a great CEO of Northwest Medical Center," McAlister said. "He has been a real visionary source."

McAlister said he "would have liked to have kept Jeff longer," but understands that retirement was a personal decision and is very happy and excited for him.

Triad Hospital will work with Comer to find a qualified replacement, ensuring that the transition runs smoothly, McAlister said.

For a new CEO, responsibilities will remain the same. With the numerous duties Comer deals with, he's leaving some large shoes to fill. That's why Paul Kappelman, CEO for the hospital's Oro Valley branch, said he, too, will be involved in finding a replacement for his mentor.

"He has given me guidance professionally, probably the biggest thing is just being able to work with him on a day-to-day basis," Kappelman said. "When you are around someone it rubs off on you."

Until his retirement date, it will be business as usual for Comer, but he does admit that the idea of packing up his two standard poodles and hitting the open road in his mobile home sitting next to his wife of 40 years, Peggy, is an exciting idea.

"We are healthy and can," Comer said. "It is all about time for us."

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