Q&A: Good Samaritan Society’s David Horazdovsky, Randy Bury

Veteran Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society leaders guide the new venture.

CEO David Horazdovsky and President Randy Bury talk about their backgrounds and roles at Good Samaritan Society.
CEO David Horazdovsky and President Randy Bury talk about their backgrounds and roles at Good Samaritan Society.

Sanford Health and The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society officially affiliated on Jan. 1. David Horazdovsky will continue to serve as the CEO of the Good Samaritan Society and join Sanford Health’s corporate leadership team, and Randy Bury transitioned from Sanford Health to become the new president of the Good Samaritan Society.

They’re confident as they embark on their new work with this combined organization that the new “we” is well positioned to be a leader in health care across the lifespan, delivering better service to patients and residents, and offering more opportunities to employees.

Talk a little about your background.

Horazdovsky: Finishing high school, I wasn’t certain what I wanted to pursue, so I took a year off. I found what I thought to be my passion through an experience I had in a long-term care facility, basically working as a janitor. I experienced being around older adults and health care.

I discovered that Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, had an undergraduate hospital administration program, which was the only one in the state, and at that time there was just a handful programs in the country. Interestingly enough, it is the same college Kelby (Krabbenhoft, Sanford Health CEO) went to. We were two years apart, bumping into one another while we were there.

During my internship between my junior and senior year, I felt more of a calling to pursue long-term care, rather than hospital administration. When I told my advisor, who was the head of the program, he looked at me in a befuddled sort of way and said he had never had one of his students want to do that before, and I responded, “Well, that’s just what I feel like I want to do.”

My internship at Lyngblomstem in St. Paul, Minnesota, really cemented my desire to continue to pursue long-term care. I finished my hospital administration major at Concordia and graduated May 4, 1978, and on May 5 … I got a job offer from Good Samaritan, and the rest is history.

I started with Good Samaritan that summer, doing my internship in Blackduck, Minnesota, where I trained under a licensed administrator. In December, I was assigned as the administrator in Windom, Minnesota, where I was for about three years. I then took a transfer and spent five years at East Grand Forks, Minnesota. I then moved to Eugene, Oregon, for a little over two years where I oversaw two locations as an executive director.

My next move was to Sioux Falls in 1989 as a regional director (now referred to as regional vice president) for the state of Minnesota. Later I transitioned to vice president of strategic planning and advancement and then to chief operating officer overseeing all of the regional operations. I became president and CEO for the Society 16 years ago.

So it was finding my passion, working as a janitor in high school in a long-term care facility where I  mowed lawns, mopped floors, filled pop machines, scrubbed kitchen grills … or whatever anyone else didn’t want to do, I think they gave it to me — that I found a strong interest in being around elders. I’m grateful that I found my passion early in life. Some of my best experiences and times throughout my 40-year career have been in those early years. I still draw upon them in many ways to help frame my thinking and decision-making.

Bury: You know, it’s interesting to hear Dave’s story because there are so many similarities woven in the paths that we have had. I’ve been on the acute side, and Dave has been in long-term care.

I was born and raised in northeast South Dakota, in Webster. I remember in my middle school years, a memory of the first thing that maybe tweaked me towards health care. Back in those days, children weren’t allowed in patient areas of the hospital. I have this vivid memory — when my grandfather was a patient in our local hospital, I would  stand out in the yard of the hospital and talk to him through the screen. I remember thinking, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. You know, if I were running this place, I’d change this stupid rule.” I am sure there were good reasons children were not allowed in patient areas, but it just seemed so strange to be standing out in the yard talking through this screen window.  So that was my first thought of, “That’s got to be an interesting place to work.”

As I entered high school, I started thinking about college and chose Augustana College (now Augustana University) because they had the only health care administration program in the state of South Dakota. I enrolled at Augustana, and during summers, I interned at the hospital in Webster. Very similar story as Dave’s — I did everything from mowing the yard to helping with the monthly financials to scrubbing surgery, just whatever had to be done — a typical summer intern job.  That solidified my thoughts of, “Hey, this is an interesting field, and this is where I want to be.”

As I progressed through Augustana, I needed an internship in my senior year. So, I literally walked up the street to Sioux Valley Hospital about six blocks. I joked that I had to get an internship within walking distance because my car was far too unreliable to get me anywhere. It was a different time because I just walked in the door, went to HR and said, “Hey, do you think I could have an internship?” I remember the HR director saying, “Sure, come back in January. We’ll figure something out.” It was very informal.

So, I went back in January and started my internship for my second semester of my senior year. I rotated through several departments, and it confirmed that this was kind of the business I wanted to be in. As I was finishing my internship, the director of admissions came to me and said: “You know, you should spend the summer here, registering patients as an admitting clerk. I think there’s going to be some opportunities here, and you should consider working here for the summer.”

I thought, well, OK — it was familiar to me, and I had gotten to know the hospital pretty well, and I liked Sioux Falls. So I just continued working.  My first job was an admitting registration clerk for Sioux Valley Hospital. A few months later, the director came to me and said, “You know, the assistant director of admissions is going to retire, and that’d be a great starter job for you. You would get your foot into management, and it would be a great opportunity.” So I took that job. Similar to Dave, it just kind of went from there.

Could you speak about your partnership and how you divide up your roles and responsibilities as CEO and president?

Horazdovsky: This all came together in somewhat of a divine way. It wasn’t necessarily on anyone’s radar screen of how to use what Randy and I could offer our new future. It just came together quite naturally. We decided to provide our experience to the organization taking my role as president and CEO of the Good Samaritan Society and bifurcate it. I’ll remain on the strategic side of the intention of the coming together as Kelby and I envisioned, being part of the corporate leadership team at Sanford and a part of the strategy dialogue, bringing my knowledge base to the table for discussion, while Randy is about the day-to-day oversight of the Good Samaritan Society operations.

Randy and I stay closely connected as Randy becomes more acquainted with the Society and the profession. As he puts his fingerprint on the organization, making decisions he thinks are important with structure and teams, I learn from Randy as I infiltrate into the day to day at Sanford Corporate and help Randy as he learns of the Good Samaritan Society and its nearly 100 years of history as well.

Bury: We’re certainly no strangers to each other by any stretch. My wife, Sonia, worked for the Society at the national campus for just over 22 years and retired in September. I like to say I don’t know if that’s much of a vote of confidence on me. As soon as she found out I was coming to the Society, she retired. But she’d been talking about that for a couple of years, so the time was just right.

Through all of the Society events I attended over the years — the annual meetings, Christmas parties and other gatherings — I feel I have a good working knowledge of the Society through those connections, and knowledge about the Society in terms of not just what they do but of the heritage and the history — what their core values are. I have a real good sense of it and an appreciation to honor the history and traditions. I think that it’s been good to come into the organization with some background.

And Dave is the same with Sanford. It’s interesting when you think about it. These two large significant health care companies, one providing more acute services and the one more into long-term care, both with national headquarters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s quite a milestone for the community and region that these organizations are based here.

What would you most like to accomplish in your work that you are about to embark on?

Horazdovsky: As Kelby and I began our discussions many, many months ago, the first place we went was to what purpose are we doing this? I would like to see our new combined mission statement “dedicated to sharing God’s love through the work of health, healing and comfort,” our new vision statement and our now shared values as a new combined organization as something that is understood, instilled and owned by all 50,000 employees — to see themselves in the mission statement, in our vision and and through our values to make a contribution through their chosen profession, to help other human beings and other individuals around the world.

How do you see the new mission, vision and values playing out in the everyday lives of employees working at the new combined organization?

Horazdovsky: I’ve learned over the years your mission statement, your vision, your values, your culture is best told through stories.

So Micah Aberson has a vision of engaging all of us through little snippets of news and information with the mission and vision being manifested in stories of how we interact with patients, residents, clients in our home care settings. There are so many stories across the system to be told that build our culture and identity. As you see your co-workers tell their story, you realize … I have a story to tell as well. Share an experience together, and let’s make it more than just words on a wall or catchphrases. Let’s share our stories with one another and see it come alive.

Bury: And I’ve been really fortunate because I’ve been able to spend time on the campus of the Good Samaritan Society, and I’ve done town hall meetings in large groups, small groups and virtually. I can tell you, both organizations are absolutely permeated with good people that come to work every day committed to providing a better service to patients and residents. And it’s almost a calling.

Good Samaritan has come from the faith-based background. However, I would point out that so has Sanford. All four of our main hub hospitals have Lutheran heritage and Lutheran roots. And when you get within those buildings, it’s lived out every day. There is a spiritual base; there’s spiritual activity going on and lived out every day. I see it as a melding of two similar cultures and missions rather than two different bodies trying to come together and figure out their pathway. There’s a lot of overlap already.

Then Randy, what would you most like to accomplish in your work that you are embarking on?

Bury: I think for me we’ve always had a growth strategy, so I want to see this now-combined organization continue to grow. Yes, we’re a growth company, but you don’t grow for growth’s sake. I want the rest of the country to recognize this new combined organization as the best, most efficient provider of care to patients and residents.

So whether you’re having a baby or you need a long-term care facility, the Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health are viewed as the premier providers in the country. Because of being early adopters getting these two organizations together and combining the two industries, coordinating the care, and through those efforts, we’ve done it so well at that that it’s just a seamless transition. When you become a patient of ours or a resident of ours, you’re getting the best care, and we’re known for that across the country. That would be my goal.

The Good Samaritan Society is retaining its name. How do you go about keeping the Good Samaritan identity distinct from Sanford Health, or is that an essential component in doing so?

Horazdovsky: It’s not so much to be so intentional about being distinct, because then why did we come together? I think both organizations see the value and respect for the heritage of the Society. In the case of the Good Samaritan Society, it has a national footprint, a national brand. And again, thanks to all of the predecessors and our nearly 20,000 employees of what they do every day, that brand means something when someone allows us the privilege, the honor, to care for their loved one, be it through home care, housing, our affordable housing, long-term care, post-acute care … all of the things that the Society offers.

Both Sanford and Good Sam enjoy a strong name that means something, and we want to be together that way for the immediate future

Bury: The Good Samaritan Society is well recognized in the industry and is well respected, known for quality care. For me, it’s a great brand. It means something to people in the industry. It means something to people across the country. And we need to not take that lightly. There’s a lot of value to that. So, there’s no movement afoot or any feeling of need to rush to change the name or change the brand, because it’s a great brand.

Randy, what are the plans for establishing continuity of care given the geographic expanse of the Good Samaritan Society and the locations where Sanford Health is presently established?

Bury: When we first started the dialogue between the two organizations, we put in place what we call a synergy process. We identified key leaders in different parts of the organization. A big part of the combination is the clinical care side. Even before the merger, we had clinicians like Dr. Victoria Walker, who is the chief medical officer at the Good Samaritan Society, actively involved.

Here’s the opportunity — prior to the closing and prior to the combination, you had acute care providers over here, long-term care providers over here, and they weren’t talking to each other or connected as much as they needed to be to provide the best care. Now, for the first time we’re able to have a meeting and put those two groups together under one roof, working for the same organization. The incentives align, the dialogue changes, and you can then work together and collaboratively to determine what is the best way to handle these transitions.

As these people move through their health care needs, how do we communicate with each other to make this as seamless and as effective as we possibly can? That work has begun, and we are identifying opportunities because we have opened up that dialogue. Any time you’re with two different organizations, the dialogue is different because you have to look out for your organization’s own best interest. Well, now that we’re the same organization, we can work together on what is best for the resident or patient — and you get to that point pretty quickly. So I’m excited by the connection that we’re establishing and the work that is going to come out of it.

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