PITTSFIELD -- When David Phelps arrived at Berkshire Health Systems in 1993 as an executive vice president, he was facing a poorly performing medical system that was in financial distress.
When he took the stage at the Colonial Theatre on Wednesday night, he received a standing ovation for bringing the organization its second Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence in five years.
Berkshire Medical Center, which is part of Berkshire Health Systems, announced the award this week.
"That is no easy task," Massachusetts first lady Diane Patrick said of the turnaround. "It takes work, courageousness and inclusive leadership."
Patrick's comments were part of a video prepared to honor Phelps at Berkshire Health System's Annual Meeting. Attendees at the gala included staff, community leaders and legislators as well as members of Phelps' family.
The event included formal presentation of the award by HealthGrades, a leading provider of comprehensive information about physicians and hospitals, which recently listed BMC among the top 5 percent for patient care among more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide.
Phelps, who is now president and CEO of BHS, also received an honorary citation from state. Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who described him as a "great sounding board" on health policy matters who "always has the best interest of the community and improving the quality of life."
Phelps also received a plaque for his service from the board of trustees.
"It's a remarkably well-organized conspiracy," Phelps said about the unexpected ceremony honoring his service. He added, "I am proud to hear these kind words, but I am more proud of this," pointing to the HealthGrades Award.
The lengthy video honoring Phelps featured compliments from colleagues and leaders from across the state. Berkshire United Way President and CEO Kristen Hazzard acknowledged BMC's support for an early literacy program and many others.
And local attorney Donald Dubendorf thanked Phelps for his support for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.
"To be doing that job for 20 years is absolutely amazing, but it's not that amazing because it's been the best 20 years for Berkshire Health Systems," said former Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto, who cited BMC's renovations that include a rebuilt operating suite and emergency room and expanded patient bays.
During the ceremony, community leader Mario DeMartino was awarded with the Francis X. Doyle Award, which recognizes and honors an individual or individuals in the community who have made significant contribution to the health and well-being of the area.
Ralph Lichtenstein, the chairman of Berkshire Medical Center's Patient and Family Advisory Council was honored for his contribution to the growth and development of community health care and services with particular devotion to Berkshire Medical Center.
And Janet Dohoney, a south Berkshire community leader, was recognized for her outstanding commitment to Fairview through volunteer and philanthropic leadership.