Cheney Free Press -


By Al Stover
Staff Reporter 

Eastern State Hospital's Dorothy Sawyer seeks community interactivity


Al Stover

Dorothy Sawyer is the current CEO of Eastern State Hospital. She took over the position in August 2013.

Dorothy Sawyer, the current CEO of Eastern State Hospital wants to make it a mission to bring the community together and educate it about mental illness.

Sawyer took the CEO position in August 2013. She has over 30 years in the health care industry.

Sawyer grew up in Spokane in the 1950s and '60s. She got into the health care profession not only because her friends were becoming nurses, but also because she was impressed by the nurses who worked in the field.

"I said 'you know what, I think I'm going to do that. I'm going to be a nurse,'" Sawyer said. "You want to be able to make a difference in people's lives and I was able to see how people could do that in a positive way."

Sawyer married right out of high school and started a family before attending Eastern Washington State College, now Eastern Washington University, where she received her undergraduate degree. After working as a nurse in Spokane, she went back to EWU to get her graduate degree.

Prior to being the CEO at Eastern State Hospital, Sawyer worked as the chief nursing executive in hospitals in Tucson, Ariz. and in Denver, Colo. She was also the CEO at Havasu Regional Medical Center in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. and the market president for IASIS Healthcare in Phoenix.

Although she enjoyed working in Arizona and Colorado, Sawyer began looking for opportunities in the Spokane area and applied for the open CEO position at Eastern State. When she was interviewing for the job, Sawyer was impressed not only by the hospital's mission to transform lives, but also how the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is working progressively to address mental illness.

"I really wanted to be a part of that," Sawyer said. "Since I had done so many things in my career, being able to focus on mental illness and focusing on the public sector and advocating for this group of people to be the best they can be."

When she started at Eastern State, Sawyer met with the hospital staff to learn about their priorities and establish goals. One goal is for the hospital and staff to be more visible within the community. Recently, they invited the state legislature to come to the hospital and listen to patients.

Sawyer said the hospital was able to purchase safer furniture for the wards and plumbing fixtures. She added that the hospital is focusing on increasing education for the staff to help them work more effectively with patients.

Sawyer said one of the key things about her position is recognizing the strength of the staff, as well as provide leadership to help them be the best they can be. She added that she is impressed with the staff and their ongoing commitment to treating mental illness.

"It is truly inspiring," Sawyer said. "I'm loving my job, maybe more than I thought possible."

As for the future, Sawyer said there would be a public hearing on a proposed infrastructure project for all three Medical Lake DSHS facilities on July 23.

Down the road, Sawyer would also like to provide opportunities for the public to visit the hospital.

"We want to show the community that the hospital is a place of healing," Sawyer said.

Al Stover can be reached at


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