Julie Shackley, former Androscoggin Home Healthcare + Hospice CEO, dies

This article was originally posted by Mark LaFlamme of the Lewiston Sun Journal on February 4, 2020. It can be found here: https://www.sunjournal.com/2020/02/04/julie-shackley-former-androscoggin-home-healthare-hospice-president-dies/

LEWISTON – Julie Shackley, the former CEO of Androscoggin Home Healthcare + Hospice who battled cancer for nearly a decade, has died.

Marketing Director Kristin Melville said Shackley died Monday night. She was in her early 60s.

On Tuesday, the staff was “grieving the loss of our beloved friend and colleague,” Melville said. “As you can imagine our staff are sadden by this loss.”

Shackley spent 22 years working for the organization, eventually leading 430 employees and building the state’s first hospice house.

“Julie will be remembered as a leader and champion of home health and hospice,” Kathy Applin, chief financial officer at the organization, said. “Although small in stature, Julie had big dreams and visions for what home health care and hospice could achieve for the community. She was fiercely and passionately committed to patient care, her staff and the community.”

In the mid-1990s, Shackley began her career with the organization as a clinical supervisor and quickly moved up the ranks. After a national search in 2005, the board named her the new CEO.

She was a central figure in establishing the Hospice House, an in-patient facility opened in 2005 for those patients who require intensive pain and symptom management.

Shackley was key in getting the organization involved early in a federal, then state, pilot program that connects patients with care and community services, including Meals on Wheels and The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing.

“Julie had a strong belief in the people of Androscoggin and encouraged us all to be better than we were and reach our fullest potential,” Applin said. “At the end of every message from Julie was her passionate belief that ‘Together we can do amazing things!’”

Sen. Susan Collins, with whom Shackley had a personal friendship, also reacted to the news of her passing on Tuesday.

“Julie was a remarkable, compassionate, and selfless leader who dedicated her life to improving the quality of health care for Mainers,” Collins said. “As the prior CEO of Androscoggin Home Care + Hospice, Julie was a blessing to thousands of Maine seniors throughout western and southern Maine, helping them to receive care in the comfort and safety of their own homes.  Under her leadership, Androscoggin Home Care + Hospice expanded Mainers’ access to home care and created the first free-standing hospice house in Maine.  Julie was a tireless advocate for older adults, and I enjoyed working with her on aging issues.  I will deeply miss her friendship, but she leaves behind a powerful and inspiring legacy of ensuring all patients are treated with dignity, respect, and kindness.”

Shackley retired as CEO in 2016. By that point, she had twice contended with breast cancer. At the time, she figured her life expectancy at about three years.

“As a nurse and as an executive leader in health care, Julie knew well how to navigate both the business and clinical dynamics of a complex health care delivery system,” said Kenneth Albert, the current CEO of Androscoggin Home Healthcare + Hospice. “More than anything, however, Julie was focused on ensuring that patients had access to quality health care in their home. She advocated for patients and their families by building strong relationships with our legislative and congressional leaders, inviting them to join clinicians in the home to experience firsthand the value of health care at home.

In 2016, shortly before her retirement, Shackley gave a candid interview to a Sun Journal reporter. She talked about her illness, about her work with the organization and about her pride in the fact that once again, the business had been designated “Best Place to Work in Maine.”

“To me, that means as an employer, we’re doing well by our employees,” she said at the time.

Her colleagues agreed. In a profession that can be extremely stressful and sometimes downright sad, Shackley frequently reminded her employees to never take their work home with them.

“Julie had a tremendous love and understanding of the delicate balance between work and family,” Applin said. “She knew that putting ‘family first’ would make us all stronger.  When she was asked any question involving work and family she would always answer, ‘family first.’ And then she would work tirelessly to fill any gaps.”

Before joining Androscoggin Home Healthcare + Hospice, Shackley had worked mainly as a hospital-based nurse since joining the profession in 1980. She grew up in Cape Elizabeth and pursued a nursing degree at the University of Southern Maine.

Her experience in hospital based nursing, particularly in the intensive care units, was considered a powerful benefit to her patients and colleagues when she took over at Androscoggin Home Healthcare + Hospice.

“Julie will be cherished as a strong, passionate leader who worked tirelessly even through her illness and treatments and was an inspiration to all of us,” Applin said. She was invested in Androscoggin being here for the future and her legacy will live through Androscoggin for years to come. My life will be forever changed by her leadership, friendship and courage.

“Julie was a great lady,” Applin said, “and I am saddened by her loss.”