Recruited executive director settles into role supporting those with special needs

DEARBORN – When a job recruiter called Michael Wooley to ask if he’d be interested in a position at the Oakwood Center for Exceptional Families, he had a quick question of his own: “How’d you get my name?”

“I wasn’t looking for anything,” said Wooley, a Birmingham resident.

At the time, he was the president and CEO of the Detroit Institute for Children, a post he held since 2003. However, Wooley said the idea to work with Dr. Susan Youngs, the chief physician at the CEF whom he had met five years previously, and Brian Connolly, the president and CEO of Oakwood Healthcare Inc. soon swayed him, as did the growing reputation of the center itself.

“They focus on the entire family, which is very unique,” Wooley said. “It’s one thing to hone in and work with the special needs child, themselves, and care for the child’s needs, but when you expand that circle into the family and siblings, it’s pretty unique. It’s very exciting to me.”

The more he thought about it, he said, the more excited he became. He was hired recently to be the first executive director of the CEF, which serves children with special needs and their families throughout Wayne County — and beyond. He moved into his new office in March.

“He will work closely with Dr. Youngs to fulfill the mission of the center for the benefit of the children and the communities served by this unique program,” Connolly said.

Wooley has more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry. He has served in a variety of operational, consulting and support roles in organizations such as the St. John Health System, Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital and William Beaumont Hospital.

“He has established a track record of proven results serving healthcare patients with special needs,” Connolly said. “He is fully committed to the work, mission and values of the CEF and his experience in all aspects of administration and fund raising will support the continued work and growth of the center.”

Wooley said he has never second-guessed his decision to concentrate on working with children with special needs, which took him to the Detroit Institute for Children eight years ago.

“I’ve never looked back. I’ve always had a passion for kids with special needs,” he said. “It’s been very fulfilling for me, personally.

“I don’t even view it as work. It’s more of a lifestyle than it is work. Every day, you feel like you’re helping people. That’s very important to me.”

Wooley will work with the new Center for Exceptional Families board to plot out short-term and long-term goals for the center, including ways to bring its unique services to more people and building on the excellence and quality of care that is already in place.

“We have really good people here,” he said. “They’re all very committed. It’s a wonderful staff.”