A Legacy of Care

Dr. Bruce L. Bird – a licensed psychologist, humble and effective leader, innovator, and dedicated advocate – has decided to step down as Vinfen’s President and Chief Executive Officer after 19 years of service to the Vinfen community. Not only has he left a legacy of care, but many consider him a lifelong friend, trusted colleague, and mentor, as he has touched the lives of numerous people through his transformational leadership across the Commonwealth and Connecticut. 

Dr. Bird received his Ph.D. from the University of Houston in 1975 and proceeded to spend the next four years at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and The John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, initially as a postdoctoral fellow in pediatrics and then as a behavioral psychology staff member and assistant professor in neurology. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, he served in a wide variety of senior administrative roles for a broad range of organizations. In 1994, Dr. Bird began work in the Massachusetts community services sector, accepting the position of Chief Operating Officer of North Suffolk Mental Health Association, and then in 1995, was promoted to Chief Executive Officer. In 2003, he joined Vinfen as Chief Operating Officer, and after seven years in that role, he was promoted to Chief Executive Officer in 2009 and President in 2010. 

We sat down with Dr. Bird prior to his departure in June to reminisce and reflect on his many years at Vinfen. As you would expect, there were a great number of truly memorable moments that stood out over the course of his time here including: 

  • The emotional reaction displayed by former United States Representative Joe Kennedy III when he visited Gateway Arts and viewed a painting by renowned Gateway artist Ruby Pearl of former first lady of the United States Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her children  
  • A powerful speech at a Vinfen-hosted luncheon where former President of the Massachusetts Senate Robert Travaglini spoke about the critical need to engage in advocacy 
  • Each and every Moving Images Film Festival, but the most impactful included a live panel with five 9/11 survivors sharing their stories and their journeys toward recovery 
  • Listening to the late Boston Marathon runner Dick Hoyt’s keynote address at the Annual Celebration of Family Partnerships where he talked about his devotion to his son and raising disability awareness 
  • Participating in and taking photos at all the NAMIWalks each May at Artisani Park with hundreds of staff and persons served from Vinfen programs 
  • Vinfen’s first Technology in Behavioral Health Conference hosted in 2017 that corresponded with our 40th year of service  

In addition to these cherished moments, there is one specific memory that served as a constant reminder of the value of his work and the importance of Vinfen’s mission. During one of many occasions throughout the years when Vinfen’s self-advocates visited the Massachusetts State House to participate in a day of advocacy, Dr. Bird introduced one of the people we serve to former Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. In that moment, he was truly struck by their authentic exchange and pure and mutual expressions of excitement, partnership, and respect. “This was an iconic moment, which epitomizes what we are trying to do to help people with life challenges to live full productive lives, including engaging in their own advocacy – it was such a magical moment for me.” 

Dr. Bird is the first to recognize and celebrate the talent, dedication, and compassion of our 3,000 staff members, especially our direct care staff. He knows that a leader is only as strong as their team. “We have an Executive Team who is excellent in key attributes of work ethic, competence, and values, and that culture permeates the company’s workforce. Our Board and Executive Team recognize that all of our planning and management mean nothing if we do not have caring staff who are well trained to support, teach, and coach the people we serve to achieve their goals,” Dr. Bird commented. He then added, “We continue to invest in quality management and systems to adopt and implement sound evidence-based practices to help the people we serve manage their challenges.” One of the things Dr. Bird is most proud of has been Vinfen’s record of annually producing a small one to two percent operating surplus each year to cover debt obligations and build a reserve for possible economic downturns. Everything above that amount is then given to staff as a bonus and/or through pension distributions. “That is clear confirmation that the Board and Executive Team place the greatest value on the work of all of our staff,” he stated. 

Dr. Bird has continuously strived to ensure that Vinfen was a thought leader and innovator and that our fiscal practices remained sound to support strategic growth and weather any storm. That has never been more appreciated than it is today. “We are disciplined and methodical about the compassionate care we provide. We manage financial resources effectively, are very responsive to state and system needs, hold ourselves accountable, and probably the most important – we hire and support a leadership team who understands the importance of data, self-evaluation, and constantly strives for improvement,” he added.  

When reflecting on the future of Vinfen, Dr. Bird hopes that the organization continues to contribute through new services and innovative new approaches to the needs of the populations it serves. In addition, he hopes to see continued growth with its partnerships with other community and healthcare providers, state agencies, and academic research centers who share common values and goals. He noted that he has been proud of his roles as Chair of the Board of Massachusetts provider associations, most recently of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare. “My election to those roles was a reflection of the reputation and contributions of the Vinfen Executive Team to policymaking and advocacy, which is so vital for our sector.”  

Dr. Bird believes that growth in core services, integrated care, and care coordination for complex behavioral and medical conditions as well as programs addressing social determinants of health will be critical to Vinfen’s success. He also emphasized the need to continue innovative evaluations of new technologies in Vinfen’s services. “The entire sector will have to adapt more technologies to help individuals and families with less access to staff, less congregate care, and more self-management and in-home care, as cost pressures and the workforce crisis will surely be around for some time,” he explained. 

Dr. Bird reports that he has thoroughly enjoyed being President and Chief Executive Officer at Vinfen and is thankful for all the people he has met along the way. “I will miss the challenges of the work, the innovative things we are doing, and I will miss my team members. We are often able to maintain a sense of humor even on the most difficult of days and are able to work well together and produce good outcomes.” He is extremely proud of the staff he has worked with, the quality of care they provide, and their passion to make a difference. Dr. Bird also notes that he will miss the people he has met who receive services and the privilege of witnessing their incredible achievements each and every day – as they are the reason why we wake up each morning and engage in this challenging and inspirational work.  

Dr. Bird will leave a lasting impression on the countless people he has worked with throughout his tenure at Vinfen. His legacy is the culture he created that values whole-person care, engagement within the community, strategic partnerships, innovative approaches, and advocacy. “It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work for the Board and with a great Executive Team and to get to know so many of you. We have done a lot together – Vinfen has grown enormously, and that is a tribute to the hard work and the good work that our staff throughout the organization do, especially those on the frontlines.” Dr. Bird’s next chapter will bring him full circle back to where his career began; he will be working to support the digitalization of the behavioral pediatrics intervention programs at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  

On behalf of the entire Vinfen community, please join us in wishing Dr. Bird the very best in his future endeavors and expressing our sincerest gratitude for all that he has done these past 19 years. Thank you, Dr. Bird.