Roles in AirMed & senior care define a career in health

Good Samaritan Society CEO Randy Bury reflects on four decades at Society and Sanford Health

Randy Bury poses in a brightly lit living room with sepia toned photos in the background.

After 40 years in health care administration, Randy Bury is nearing the end of his career of service. The Good Samaritan Society president and CEO is retiring at the end of December.

“You look back and it’s kind of overwhelming in a way,” Bury says about his time at the Society and Sanford Health.

‘Vivid memory’ providing inspiration

Growing up in Webster, South Dakota, Bury knew from a young age what he was going to do with his life.

At 12, his grandpa was admitted to the hospital. At the time, kids were not allowed to go inside the building for a visit.

“Kind of like COVID, you could stand outside the window,” Bury says. “I have this vivid memory of standing out in the yard thinking, ‘This is nuts. If I ran this place, I’d change that policy.’”

So, it became his mission to make an impact in health care.

“To be there to help people drew me to it,” Bury says. “My parents set a great example. They were uber-involved in the (Webster) community.”

‘Where’s the HR department?’

During his final semester at what was then Augustana College, where he met his wife Sonia, Bury became an unpaid intern at Sioux Valley Hospital. It’s now Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“Registered people in the ER as they were coming in to be admitted. Thought that I’d send out resumes over the summer and then get what I viewed as my permanent job,” Bury says.

Little did he know, in the summer of 1981, he’d land his “permanent job” at his first stop. With Augie located just a few blocks from Sioux Valley, he strolled right in.

“It was close. It was winter and there’s no way my car was reliable enough to even get me across town,” Bury says. “I literally walked in the front door and said, ‘Where’s the HR department?’”

A quick conversation with local leaders and a verbal agreement was struck.

“It was all just, ‘Yeah, we can do that,’” Bury says while admitting it was a different time back then.

He rotated between departments spending most of his time in admissions.

“Never had the intent that I would stay this long. When you’re young and 22 years old, you don’t think, ‘Yeah I’m going to start this job and retire here 40 years from now,’” Bury says.

‘I’ve had 20-25 different titles’

Presented with new challenges consistently, Bury says he’s been able to advance while staying put.

“Unbeknownst to me, I was joining a company that was about ready to explode with growth. Because of that, I didn’t have to move,” Bury says.

“I, literally, have a bag full of name badges in my office that I’ve collected over the years because I’ve had 20-25 different titles.”

Over the years at the medical center, he spent time as chief operating officer, chief administrative officer, executive vice president and vice president of patient services.

“I managed everything from the air ambulance program to, for a while, the surgery department. Which should scare a lot of people that I was actually (given) oversight of some clinical areas. That was a different era too,” Bury says.

Before joining the Society in 2018, he served as Sanford Health’s chief administrative officer and held the role of senior vice president of health services administration.

With all those opportunities, developing what is now Sanford AirMed sticks out in his memories. Bury led the air medical transport team from the mid-1980s until about 2000.

“That was kind of the barnstorming era of air medical. We were developing the program and eventually hired our own pilots and mechanics and bought airplanes. Very few hospitals in the country were doing that,” Bury says.

Now, Sanford AirMed can take off within minutes of a call from Bemidji, Bismarck, Fargo or Sioux Falls. More than 70,000 patients have been served.

“That program turned into one of the nation’s busiest programs. Very successful,” Bury says.

‘Couldn’t be more proud’ of Society staff

Spending the past three years as the Society’s leader has Bury spearheading an integration with Sanford Health and prepping strategies to beat COVID-19.

“We were just getting our feet on the ground and feeling pretty good about how things were going and then COVID just came out of the blue. Just had this horrific impact on long-term care,” Bury says.

Never missing a plug to encourage people to get the “the shot,” Bury says COVID-19 vaccines have made a world of difference.

“Going from hundreds of positive cases to almost none in a period of a few months after the vaccine came out. Nobody can tell me the vaccine doesn’t work,” Bury says.

“Our staff and our organization stepped up and handled it as well as anybody. Couldn’t be more proud of the staff in a horrific situation.”

Retirement will bring ‘strange feeling’

Staying active and living with purpose are the hallmarks of the Society’s vision for its residents. As Bury nears retirement, he plans to stay busy too.

“I like to hunt. I like to fish. We’ve got a cabin. I like to read. I’ll volunteer,” Bury says.

Bury’s German shorthaired pointer Max loves to chase pheasants as much as he does.

“If you’ve got a good dog and you’re willing to walk a lot of miles, get out there and do it,” Bury says.

He plans to spend more time with his wife and sons too. However, he jokes about messing up his wife’s routine.

“I don’t know if Sonia’s going to like retirement or not — no promises,” Bury says laughing. “I think if I interrupt that in any way, I could be in trouble.”

Having led 24-hour health care operations for decades, while on duty or vacation, Bury says being free from big decisions will be different.

“All of a sudden on January 1st, nobody’s going to call me for that stuff anymore. After 40 years of that, that’s going to be a very strange feeling,” Bury says. “You can’t help but feel a little bit melancholy about that.”

‘Surrounded by people who are extremely talented’

There’s no doubt he’ll miss the job and the relationships developed with colleagues.

“The strength of a well-functioning team always far exceeds any individual,” Bury says. “I have been surrounded by people who are extremely talented.”

“I’ve always felt that I don’t know much about anything, but I always know who to call. I think I’m pretty good at hiring the right people and letting them do their job.”

Compassionate people, at the Society and Sanford Health, providing the best care to those who need it.

“Just the work that occurs every day is a good story. You don’t have to look very far,” Bury says.

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Posted In Company News, Corporate Services & Administration, Sanford Stories, Senior Services