Dr. Dean Gruner, ThedaCare President and CEO, Announces Retirement

After 40 Years in Healthcare, Focus on Family, Community Service

Dean Gruner, MD, president and CEO of ThedaCare since April 2008, today announced his plans to retire. Dr. Gruner began in healthcare 40 years ago, has served this community for 33 years, and has served as President and CEO of ThedaCare since April 2008.

“I thought long and hard about this decision, and I look forward to getting more involved in community building, volunteering and doing mission work. I also want to spend more time with my wife Pam, family and friends – especially my three adorable grandchildren,” said Dr. Gruner, 62, of Appleton. “This is a new era of healthcare and I am proud that ThedaCare has a strong leadership team in place to continue our journey.”

Under his direction, ThedaCare became the largest healthcare provider in Northeast Wisconsin, and the largest locally based employer, with 7,000 employees, seven hospitals, 34 clinics and other healthcare services covering nine counties.

“Dr. Gruner has been committed to improving the healthcare of the communities we serve and the Board appreciates his dedication and devotion to our mission,” said John Davis, chairman of ThedaCare Board of Trustees.

A national executive search firm has been hired to look for internal and external candidates, and a Board search committee has been formed, Davis said. The Board will hire the new leader and the process is anticipated to take six-nine months, with a transition to the new president and CEO to happen in summer 2017. Succession talks started when Dr. Gruner was hired and have continued annually to assure that ThedaCare has always been prepared.

“I plan to stay involved 100 percent active and committed and sprint through the finish line – when the Board hires a successor,” Dr. Gruner added.

Dr. Gruner spearheaded the exploration of improving healthcare in the Fox Cities with the consideration of one Fox Cities regional medical center. That journey will continue. “The Board, system leadership team, physicians and nurses are firmly committed and will continue the work while engaging our providers, business leaders, and ThedaCare team members in discussions about the future of health care in Northeast Wisconsin,” he said.

He has served in multiple leadership positions with ThedaCare or its affiliates since it was founded as Novus Health Group in 1987. He previously served as chief medical officer of both ThedaCare and the former Touchpoint™ Health Plan, which was sold to United Healthcare in 2004. He was one of the founding physicians of Touchpoint, and was a practicing family physician with Family Doctors, S.C., which affiliated with ThedaCare in 1994. In 2000, Dr. Gruner was named chief medical officer for ThedaCare. In 2003 he became senior vice president for ThedaCare Physicians, an ambulatory care practice at the time consisting of 150 providers and 20 clinics.  In 2008, he became president and CEO of the ThedaCare.

Dr. Gruner, along with many leaders, has had many accomplishments at ThedaCare, including:

  • Bringing the ThedaCare mission of “improving the health of the communities we serve” to greater life:
    • In 2003, participated in the creation of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ)
    • ThedaCare Physicians has consistently had the top performance in the state as measured by WCHQ for seven straight years meaning that ThedaCare is doing the best job keeping people healthy and both preventing and treating diseases
    • ThedaCare has spread employer and wellness on-site clinics to 44 local employers and 85 onsite clinics that work to improve workplace wellness, keeping employees healthy and reducing costs
    • Bellin ThedaCare HealthCare Partners was recognized by Medicare as the highest quality ACO in the country in 2014 and 2015 while also being the lowest cost Pioneer healthcare system
  • Expanding community collaborations that also serve the mission:
    • Spread the Community Health Action Team (CHAT) model throughout the entire ThedaCare service area and participated in CHAT events addressing several opportunities including poverty, domestic violence, rural health, senior care, being black in the Fox Cities and more
    • ThedaCare has been recognized by American Hospital Association as a Foster G. McGaw Finalist twice for community health improvement efforts. No other Wisconsin health system has received that recognition in the last 20 years.
    • Was a catalyst in the creation of Catalpa Health with other local pediatric mental health providers
    • Spearheaded joining the Mayo Clinic Care Network, the first healthcare system in Wisconsin to do so
    • Led the transition of the Fox Cities Residency Program to a joint sponsorship with Affinity Health System (now Ascension) and the academic affiliation from UW to Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Helped build and expand ThedaCare to be a truly regional health system serving nine counties:
    • Led the negotiations, affiliations and the integration of hospitals in Waupaca, Shawano, Berlin and Wild Rose into ThedaCare
    • Provided leadership in the creation and growth of 18 specialty physician services including cardiology, orthopedics, oncology, endocrinology and more
    • Helped create ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center, the home base for the ThedaCare premier cancer program
    • ThedaCare was has been recognized as a “Most Wired” health system for 15 consecutive years and in 2016 was one of only nine health systems in the U.S. to receive recognition for being an “Advanced IT health system”
    • Provided leadership to ThedaCare Physicians’ initiatives to offer same-day appointments and the integration of an electronic medical records system, ThedaCare On Call, and the MyThedaCare.org secure patient web portal

Additionally, Dr. Gruner has served or continues to serve on several national, state and community Boards including Vizient, Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality, Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, United Way Fox Cities, and Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity while volunteering in his church and with many community organizations such as Voices of Men, POINT, and Weight of the Fox Cities.

A native of White Bear Lake, Minn., Dr. Gruner was the first member of his family, including siblings and cousins, to graduate from college. He received his undergraduate degree in chemistry and psychology from St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School. He completed his residency in family practice at St. Michael Hospital in Milwaukee. He earned a master’s degree in medical management from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, La., in 2001.

Dr. Gruner has been married for 38 years to Pam and has three adult children Katie, Erica and David all of whom chose healthcare as a profession, and three grandchildren.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves more than 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose and 34 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke, and cardiac programs and a foundation dedicated to community service. Construction of ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton opened in February. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.