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December 16, 2016

Carrying Reflections Into the New Year

As another year draws to its close, I like to glance back...and look ahead. It's a good time to reflect on how we and our organizations have grown, changed and improved over the past 12 months.

Carrying Reflections into the New Year

By Dean Gruner, MD

As another year draws to its close, I like to glance back … and look ahead. It’s a good time to reflect on how we and our organizations have grown, changed and improved over the past 12 months. Several of our 2016 initiatives at ThedaCare allowed me to engage directly with the community—a job I always value.

Exploring our strategic facilities plan and the possibility of a next generation medical center, for example, has given me the opportunity to hear from so many in our community. I love the chance to hear enthusiastic feedback from our team-members and caregivers closest to the project, and to foster conversations in the community that deepen understanding and help people see the potential. It’s all about transparency and engaging with others, and I continue to enjoy the work.

This year, we also launched the creation of a single system business plan. It’s a natural extension of our branding work, which created a unified appearance and design for all our facilities. Now, instead of each part of the organization developing its separate business plan, we’re collectively focused on three system-wide priorities: Better access and convenience, improving the quality of inpatient care, and delivering financial performance to reinvest in the organization. All other plans roll up to this. It has put us in a much better position to serve our communities, and that makes me excited.

I also treasure the daily instances of seeing our teams in action. Moments like these never fail to “wow” me:

  • Witnessing the incredible job our people did to contain 37,000 gallons of water and maintain services after a broken pipe at ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano.
  • Seeing the outcomes of our “Gift of Life” organ donation program at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, recognized as the best in state for several years, spread to ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. Their efforts bring something really great out of something really bad. It truly is giving the gift of life.
  • Experiencing a resurgence of pride, commitment and excitement among our nursing staff at the hospitals.
  • Celebrating our community conversations and Community Health Action Teams (CHAT) with local leaders. In every community, a member spoke about the great work CHAT is doing on THEIR community issues and what a difference ThedaCare is making on the ground. I love to get involved in spreading care and community health beyond our walls.
  • Speaking of beyond our walls, we continue to meet people where they are—at the workplace—to keep them healthy. We now have up to 85 onsite clinics at businesses throughout the Fox Valley.

In looking ahead to 2017 and my own transition, I’ve mentioned the satisfaction that comes from designing a process we can trust to deliver the person who will best serve ThedaCare as its next leader.

But, first, I have a lot of work left to do! And time to reflect on how I’ll contribute to the community through next year and beyond. I’ve got a lot of ideas and I’m eager to continue playing a role.

What about you? Pause and consider your great lessons or great moments of 2016. What did you learn from them and what are the applications for 2017? Lastly, how do you or your business plan to give back in 2017?

— Dr. Dean Gruner is president and CEO of Appleton-based ThedaCare. To send your thoughts to him, email