Sanford trustee, tech leader drawn to health care

Brent Teiken is inspired by culture, challenging times and giving back

Sanford trustee, tech leader drawn to health care

If there’s one member of the Sanford Health governing board who knows technology and understands the trends of our digital future, it’s Brent Teiken.

Teiken has served with Sanford Health Board of Trustees since 2009 and previously served with North Dakota-based MeritCare in Fargo, North Dakota, before its merger with Sanford Health.

But it wasn’t Teiken’s experience in leadership or technology that drew him to serve in a governance role.

Why he serves on the board

“Everyone has a health care story in their life,” Teiken explained.

Teiken endured a personal health scare shortly after he was married in 1995. He was ultimately diagnosed and treated through then-MeritCare in Fargo.

“Here I am 30 years later, healthy, with a number of providers to thank for that,” he said.

“You develop this deep connection, appreciation, admiration and inspiration from the people who treated and cared for you.”

In turn, he wanted to be a part of that and give back.

He said beyond his own personal health journey, he shared a passion for community and commitment with individuals he joined in board service.

“A big part of it for me is as a community member and steward of the organization, you have a hand in making sure the decisions being made — like the quality of health care — are the right decisions.”

Unique experience, perspective in tech

Teiken brings to the board a wealth of unique experience in the technology industry as co-founder and CEO of Sundog Interactive, a digital marketing and technology consulting firm, which was acquired by St. Louis-based global firm Perficient in 2019.

Along the way, he did some consulting work for health care organizations and saw the industry from the outside looking in.

“Once I became a board member, I was able to see from the inside out and it’s a very different view when you’re talking to executives, understanding decisions you make, planning and strategy.”

Teiken is at the forefront of changes in technology and has seen over the years innovations including moving from mainframes to client/server computing, mobile and the web, the cloud and artificial intelligence.

“If you think about where health care is going, changes in competitors, virtual health and digital transformation changing health care, I can bring perspective into the discussion on the Board of Trustees which few are able to because of the experience I’ve had.”

Recognized for leadership

Teiken served as chairman of the board in 2020 during the start of COVID-19 pandemic, one of health care’s most challenging times in recent history.

Not only was it during a pandemic, but Sanford underwent its first CEO leadership transition in 24 years and a governance reset.

As a result, his leadership led to recognition by Modern Healthcare for Excellence in Governance at Sanford Health in 2022.

“The first thing I did was thank the rest of the board,” he said.

Admittedly, he can’t take all the credit but points to an “all-inclusive” board and executive team for their collaboration in a pivotal effort with a major shift in the organization’s strategy.

“We updated our governance structure, some of the committees, how the executive team and board collaborate on strategy development, and the communication processes and procedures,” he recalled.

“I was very humbled and grateful to receive but it was very much a board effort.”

He speaks highly of today’s leadership team including President and CEO Bill Gassen.

“Bill brought a renewed vision, sense of culture and purpose,” he said. “His leadership style is something that was needed at that time.”

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Since becoming CEO, Gassen reminds the Board of Trustees often that at the end of every decision and discussion is a patient and encourages members to keep that at the forefront.

“I’ve got nothing but admiration for Bill and appreciate the renewed purpose and vision he brought with him as CEO.”

How the pandemic impacted health care

While it still may be too early to pinpoint specifically, Teiken knows the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed health care delivery forever.

There is more focus than ever on virtual care which has long been a priority for Sanford Health as a predominantly rural health provider.

“It will change structurally how organizations operate,” he said.

The pandemic has added velocity for new entrants to the industry from technology sectors to health insurance, while accelerating others who are adding to theirs like Google, CVS and Apple.

“Ultimately, it has had a big impact on technology, the use of technology, speed and implementation around technology and new entrants who were never health care competitors before by helping them become competitors,” Teiken added.

The role of the board

Sanford Health trustees are elected by the full board and currently serve up to three three-year terms. The Board of Trustees Nominating and Governance Committee is responsible for identifying, evaluating and recommending potential new members based on their qualifications and experience. Trustees represent a broad range of backgrounds, with extensive experience in business and finance, health care, technology and the nonprofit sector.

The Board of Trustees oversees governance for the health system, guiding the pursuit of Sanford’s mission and providing oversight of the organization’s strategic direction and financial and operational performance.

“Everybody has a background or skillset that is different and as we go through an inventory every year to look at the diversity in skills, geography and backgrounds, we can draw from one another,” Teiken said.

When he’s not enjoying the outdoors, Teiken is reading, learning, exploring and enjoys being around his fellow board members to move the organization forward.

“Ultimately, I want to say that we are the best place and we have the best people and provide the best care.”

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Posted In Corporate Services & Administration, Leadership in Health Care, Virtual Care