Pursuing life with passion

by David Russell ’79


David Russell
1979, bachelor’s degree in business administration

I was born and raised in a Seventh-day Adventist family and gifted with God-fearing, Christian parents who consistently conveyed their personal passion and belief in God and Jesus Christ throughout my life. Attending Walla Walla University developed my own appreciation for having personal faith and gave me insight into the positive impact a faith-based, mission-centered organization can have on people.

With a business degree in hand, my wife, Debra Merritt Russell, ’80, and I left Walla Walla to pursue our dreams to work in health care. I began with an internship in the patient business office at Adventist Medical Center in Portland, Ore. This foundational learning and skill-building experience prepared me for my next job as business manager at South Bighorn County Hospital in Greybull, Wyoming. I quickly realized I would consistently depend on what I learned in my Principles of Accounting class throughout my career, which remains true today.

Desiring to continue my education, we moved to Loma Linda, California, where I completed a master of health administration degree at Loma Linda University. After finishing my advanced degree, I worked in administrative positions for Adventist Health in Central California and as the vice president for finance at the Lifestyle Center of America in Sulphur, Oklahoma, followed by two years as vice principal for finance at Auburn Adventist Academy in Auburn, Wash.

Growing leadership skills

Thirteen years ago, our family returned to Portland, where I began working for Adventist Medical Center once again. I worked in several different leadership positions: clinic administrator, vice president for marketing and business development, and senior vice president and chief operating officer. Each role contributed to my leadership experience in supporting the delivery of mission-centered health services in a rapidly changing, highly competitive health care environment.

Now, as the president and chief executive officer at Adventist Medical Center, I have the privilege of leading an exceptional team delivering high-quality, whole-person care with an emphasis on improving health and providing hope. I look forward to supporting this team as we expand the impact of our mission to the people we serve each day and work collaboratively to lead the transformation of health in Oregon. 

My passion is to continue helping people find restored health, wholeness, and hope in a setting and culture that demonstrates the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.

Walla Walla University provided the setting for me to find my life partner and spouse. Marrying my best friend, raising two wonderful children—Jessica Russell Lee ’08 married Andrew Lee ’06, and Kevin Russell ’10 married Jennika Hanson Russell ’12—and now enjoying our three grandchildren. These are truly the best things in life.

Success, for me, can be defined as the integration of my love of family, my relationship with God, and a job in which my personal faith and values fit with the mission and values of the organization. Walla Walla University played a significant role in these facets of my life and career, providing me with an excellent foundation, both academic and personal Christian growth, upon which to build my life.

To Walla Walla University students I offer this: Keep Jesus at the center of your life, choose a life goal, and pursue it with passion.

David Russell was president and CEO of Adventist Medical Center in Portland, Ore., when this article appeared in the
Fall 2016 issue of Westwind.

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