New Sanford CEO prioritizes patients, employees, community

Health system's new leader eager to keep organization strong and people first

New Sanford CEO prioritizes patients, employees, community

There’s a new leader at the helm of Sanford Health. President and CEO Bill Gassen is wasting no time letting employee caregivers and communities know he’s thankful and he’s listening.

But Sanford Health News wanted to take a moment to learn more about the man behind the new title.

Getting to know Bill, family

A family man, a Christian and former collegiate athlete, Gassen has a passion for people and a heart for the community.

He and his wife Jill have five children ranging in ages from 2 to 11 years old, which keeps him quite busy when he’s not at the office.

“It’s all about those small things right now,” Gassen tells Sanford Health News. “I’m fortunate that my children are at that age, when I come in the door —  it doesn’t matter what time it is — you can hear those little footsteps, they still jump into your arms and want to give you a hug. There’s nothing that brings it all home better than that. Nothing that brings perspective better than that.”

That mentality carries over to his professional career, especially as he assumes his new leadership position.

“I try to be mindful that the 50,000 people at this organization have those responsibilities, too,” Gassen explains.

“Nobody works a shift and just turns it off and leaves,” he said. “Our caregivers walk out of the doors of our building, caring for people all day long, pouring themselves out to do whatever they can and they’ve got a household full, whatever that looks like … they’ve got a lot of demands on them. I think it’s important as we approach them each and every day, we’re mindful of that and that we do our best to make sure we understand what else they have on their plates and make sure that we meet the whole person and not just the individual who’s here providing care for us.”

His passion for health care is modeled after his mother’s four-decade career as a hospital nurse.

“Seeing the passion on her face, seeing the good days and the bad days or nights when she was on call every other weekend, every other holiday for 40 years — it was a passion,” he said. “It wasn’t a job. She could have gotten a job anywhere, but she did it because she loved people. She loved caring for people. Then when I married my wife, who’s a physician assistant, I got to see the same thing in her.”

Leading in a pandemic

Gassen has been an integral part of navigating the health system through the pandemic and enters this role during one of health care’s most challenging years. In doing so, he leans on the experts, his trusted colleagues in medicine and research to help lead the way.

He says these challenging times bring the greatest of opportunities for an integrated health system and he looks forward to the future and building upon that commitment to the Sanford workforce, patients and communities.

“I want to make sure that — just like with my own children — I’m going to do right by our patients, by our people and by our communities. Those three things will never cease to keep me up at night. If I stop staying up at night thinking about them, then it’s probably time to move on.”

Up next: Sanford Health News will continue its conversation with Bill Gassen on the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine distribution plans and what this new leadership means as we move forward.

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Posted In Company News, Corporate Services & Administration