Chris van gorder, FACHE
President & CEO, Scripps Health
As president and CEO of Scripps Health since 2000, Chris Van Gorder has been instrumental in positioning Scripps among the nation’s foremost health care institutions. Now he is leading the restructure of the $3.1 billion, integrated health system to best prepare for the changes of health care reform.
Board certified in health care management and an American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Fellow, he also served as 2010 chairman of the association – an international professional society of more than 40,000 health care executives who lead hospitals, health care systems and other health care organizations. As chairman, he provided leadership for an established network of more than 80 ACHE chapters that provide local access to networking, education and career development. ACHE is also known for its prestigious FACHE credential, signifying board certification in health care management. In 2014, ACHE gave Van Gorder the Gold Medal Award, awarded to outstanding leaders who have made significant contributions to the health care profession
At Scripps Health, Van Gorder oversees all functions of the integrated health system, including its five acute‐care hospital campuses, dozens of outpatient centers throughout San Diego County, and a regional home health service and hospice. More than 15,000 employees and 3,000 affiliated physicians provide care at Scripps, which has made the Fortune magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 10 consecutive years, as well as the 2015 Great Place to Work “Healthcare Best Workplaces” list. On the quality front, Scripps has been named to both the U.S. News Best Hospitals list and the Truven Health Analytics 100 Top Hospitals list for several years running.
Named CEO shortly after arriving at Scripps in 1999, the organization was losing $15 million a year, and employee and physician confidence had hit bottom. Van Gorder responded with a transparent, co‐ management style, configured an award‐winning executive team, streamlined business operations and focused on internal efficiencies, physician relations and workplace culture – leading to a landmark turnaround.
Scripps now is focused on regional growth and expansion. The organization’s $2 billion plan for the San Diego region saw it double its ambulatory locations and expand its hospital campuses. New growth includes a radiation therapy center (2012), the Scripps Proton Therapy Center (2014), the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute (2015), the Leichtag Foundation Critical Care Pavilion (2015), the John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion (2016), and the Barbey Family Emergency and Trauma Center (2016).
Additionally, in 2016 Scripps and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announced a partnership to create the Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center, part of a global collaborative of hospitals and health care systems dedicated to ending cancer globally.
Van Gorder’s rise to health care executive has been unconventional. His journey began as a hospital patient, when as a police officer he was critically injured during a family dispute call. After a lengthy recovery and starting a new career in hospital security, Van Gorder continued his education in health care management and rose to levels of increased responsibility. He continues to serve the public as a reserve assistant sheriff in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, in charge of the Law Enforcement and Search and Rescue Reserves. He also is a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT) and an instructor for the American Red Cross. In 2006, Van Gorder’s volunteer work was honored with the Maltese Cross Award by the San Diego County Fire Chiefs, and again in 2007 with the MedAssets Outstanding Humanitarian Award. In 2007, he also received USC’s prestigious Guardian Award for his significant achievements in health care and commitment to the community. In 2009, he received the distinguished B’nai B’rith National Healthcare Leader award.
Van Gorder received his master’s degree in public administration/health services administration at the University of Southern California, completed the Wharton CEO Program at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles.
In 2006, California’s governor appointed Van Gorder to the California Commission on Emergency Medical Services (EMSA) where he served two terms. In 2007, the U.S. Secretary of State reappointed Van Gorder to the U.S. Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He is a Professor of Practice (Health Management) at the University of Southern California, where he also serves on the Board of Councilors of the university’s school of policy, planning and development. In addition, Van Gorder is a member of the editorial/advisory boards of HealthLeaders, Becker’s Hospital Review and the Governance Institute. In Feb. 2016, he joined the board of ABiomed, a leading provider of medical devices that provide cardiovascular circulatory support.
In 2008, Van Gorder and his executive team were named the Top Leadership Team in Health Care for large health systems by HealthLeaders magazine. And in 2016, Modern Healthcare named Van Gorder one of the nation’s “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare,” the eighth time on this coveted list.
Van Gorder was part of medical history following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D., asked a Scripps medical unit to staff a temporary clinic for hurricane survivors in the Houston Convention Center. The request for Scripps’ assistance marked the first time the federal government asked a private health care organization for long‐term support for a nationally organized disaster relief plan. The Scripps Medical Response Team (SMRT) later provided community medical support following the 2007 San Diego County wildfires, and again in January 2010, when Van Gorder and the SMRT traveled to Port au Prince, Haiti, to aid victims of the devastating earthquake. In 2015, the Scripps’ team traveled to Nepal to provide remote medical care following an earthquake that left more than 8,000 dead and others without shelter or care for injuries. Because of the team’s experience, the Scripps Disaster Preparedness Office often provides counsel to local, state and federal disaster efforts.
In October 2010, Van Gorder announced a new direction for Scripps Health. In anticipation of dramatic change in health care, he “turned the organization on its side,” creating a horizontally matrixed management structure to identify and significantly reduce unnecessary variation in patient care and health care operations. The approach led to more than $400 million in performance improvements from 2011 to 2015. Continually striving to reduce cost and inefficiency and bring value to patients, Scripps is now one of a handful of health care systems integrating Lean business concepts as part of its ongoing business strategy, engaging front‐line employees and physicians in everyday work and process solutions.
Van Gorder’s first book – The Front‐Line Leader: Building a High Performance Organization from the Ground Up – was published in November 2014. He now regularly presents on leadership, corporate culture and health care and shares his thoughts through his front‐line leadership blog – #Frontlineleader – and on Twitter @ChrisD.VanGorder.