Published May 20, 2014
Volume 22, Number 5


ValleyCare CEO Sees Strong Future for Health System

By Zoe Francis


Healthcare as we know it is changing rapidly, and the new ValleyCare CEO is determined the local health system will stay on top of evolving trends to better serve the region.

Scott Gregerson took over leadership in March after serving as interim CEO when the previous executive left in February. He faces the challenge of bringing ValleyCare out of years of debt while also guiding the health system into the new frontier of how healthcare is provided.

“If it were just a (financial) turnaround, that’s one thing,” Gregerson said. “But the era of healthcare we’re coming into is going to be very challenging.”
(Photo Credit: ValleyCare)

The dynamic young leader, who had been ValleyCare’s vice president of strategic partnerships for two years, is eager to tackle the challenges and confident the health system will end up stronger in the long run.

“This hospital is facing head winds that I’m very familiar with,” Gregerson, 42, said of his decade-long career in the healthcare industry. “I understand what needs to be done. I’m in a very good position to help this hospital not only survive, but adapt and even thrive.”

The first move is to get ValleyCare Health System out of the red after running up $3 million to $5 million in debt every year for the past five years. ValleyCare also did not meet minimum standards for bond obligations, putting the entire system at risk.

“We will have a positive bottom line at the end of fiscal year 2015, so June 30, 2015,” Gregerson stated. “That’s our plan, and we’re committed to it. We will achieve that outcome.”

The next major step is to align the independent ValleyCare with a larger healthcare firm. The goal is to achieve a partnership that will usher the health system into the new model that promotes well-being over merely reacting to health problems as they arise.

“You’ll see efforts to push healthcare out into the community to not only react to an illness, but to prevent an illness,” Gregerson said. “That really is the holy grail of our efforts. A disease prevented it always better than a disease treated.”

A larger healthcare affiliate has the resources to put that philosophy into action, he noted.

“We want the best thing for this community and that takes time,” he said. “But I have to say there are a lot of great ideas coming from potential affiliates. I would say (a partnership) will happen within the next couple of years and frankly, it could happen much sooner.”

Growing Up
Gregerson did not set out to be a leader in the healthcare industry. The Minnesota native was only 3 years old when his family moved to Modesto, where he grew up and graduated from high school.

The eager young student enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara, ultimately graduating with a degree in law and society.

“After UCSB, I went up to Silicon Valley and did software sales at BMC Software,” he recalled. “I worked out of Mountain View. This was in the late ‘90s, which was really the go-go era of technology.

“It was great, but the monetary incentives alone weren’t enough to drive me. I was seeking an ethical contribution. I came to the conclusion that if I was going to go on and get a graduate degree, it was really the time to do it.”

Gregerson fully intended to go to law school at UC Davis, but ultimately landed a plum scholarship that made it feasible for him to attend the private and prestigious Washington & Lee University in Virginia.

“It’s a great law school,” he said. “It’s a very small college, one of the oldest law schools in the country. If I was ever going to experience something different, this was my chance to do it. So I decided to go out to Virginia.”

The hard-working law student was in his last year of law school when he met his future wife, Colleen. They were both stranded at the Pittsburgh airport, trying to get back to their respective campuses. When Gregerson got his law degree in 2002, he moved back to California to take the bar exam while Colleen moved on to graduate school in Washington, D.C.

Entering Healthcare
Gregerson passed the bar and did some technology work, then relocated to D.C. to be near Colleen and work for The Advisory Board Company, a leading healthcare think tank.

“They do best practice dissemination and consulting,” he explained. “They work with probably 75 percent of the hospitals in the country. If you’re in the industry, they are considered one of the definitive players. They were very interested in bringing in someone with both a legal and sales background. They were looking for something very unique, and I just happened to be unique.”

The job required extensive travel, so Gregerson stuck with it a little more than a year while Colleen finished graduate school. The couple moved back to California and got married in Sonoma, where Gregerson took the role of vice president of business development at Sonoma Valley Hospital.

It was a job he enjoyed for three years, until his boss and mentor left in 2007. The Gregersons then moved back to D.C., where he was vice president of strategy and business development at Doctors Community Hospital. Colleen continued her international health work focusing on developing countries.

After five years in D.C., the couple relocated to Chicago, where Gregerson took another vice president job with Fresenius, a company that specializes in dialysis services.

“I loved the role, but I had a 1-year-old daughter at the time,” he said. “My wife was fatiguing a bit on the intensity of (my) travel. I decided at some point this was going to have to end.”

Back to California
Fortunately, that’s when ValleyCare came knocking.

“I really wanted to get back into the hospital world,” Gregerson said. “I have a really young daughter, my parents still live in Modesto and I have a lot of friends in Silicon Valley. It seemed like a great opportunity.”

His new job as vice president of strategic partnerships “was a pretty wide-open role, which is great,” he said. “We are a community hospital, but we are surrounded by some of the best players in the world. The question is how we can leverage what we are with what they are to better our community.”

Stanford, UC San Francisco and UC Davis are world-class leaders in healthcare. When you throw John Muir/Tenet Healthcare, Sutter and Kaiser Permanente into the mix, the competition heats up.

“This is a wildly competitive landscape, probably the most competitive I’ve ever seen in my life,” he noted. “These are sophisticated systems, and competing at our scale is very, very challenging. We’re going to need a dynamic and innovative partner to ensure that we can adapt to the rapidly changing healthcare landscape.”

Gregerson already has feelers out for potential partnerships, noting that ValleyCare is in a superb position. Not only is this area a desirable market, but “the staff here is unbelievable. They care so deeply about this community. That’s an aspect about the culture we intend to maintain.”

The goal is to expand beyond the hospital setting to offer much-needed services in the community. Clinical excellence will not only be required in treatment, but also in detection and prevention. Much of this will happen away from hospitals in centers for chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and congestive heart failure. Cardiac and cancer services have become community-based and should be expanded.

“We have to reinvent ourselves,” he said. “We’re looking at ways of keeping our community healthier. If we can achieve that, it’s a better world for the employers, our neighbors and ourselves. We want to align the health of our population with the health of our economy.We are fortunate to live in an extraordinary place, and we are committed to doing our part to make it even better.”

Gregerson is eager to tackle the challenges of his new job.

“I’m honored to have this role,” he said. “My goal is absolutely to protect and enhance an asset for this community. This is an exceptional community. They deserve an exceptional hospital. My goal is to make sure they have one.”

Learn more about ValleyCare Health System at valleycare.com.

Since our interview with Gregerson, ValleyCare has signed a nonbonding letter of intent to affiliate with Stanford Hospital and Clinics. ValleyCare Health System and its hospitals would become a subsidiary of Stanford Hospital and Clinics. ValleyCare would keep its medical staff , but its physician group would be integrated with Stanford's University Healthcare Alliance.


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