Phil Castle, The Business Times
Chris Thomas attributes successful hospital management in part to three things: collaboration, transparency and, ultimately, doing the right thing.
The president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital expects to bring a similar approach to another leadership role as chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. In addition to overseeing efforts to take care of patients, Thomas wants to make sure the chamber takes care of business.
The success of those efforts couldn’t be more crucial, he says, in not only providing value to members, but also promoting a strong economy. “I just think it’s important. I think what the chamber does is important.”
Thomas started his year-long term as chamber chairman at the beginning of the year, succeeding outgoing chairman Clay Tuffly.
Thomas says his duties include running meetings and making sure all voices are heard. But he also plans to work with chamber staff in making sure the organization listens to what members need and responds accordingly.
Thomas says he’s twice served on the chamber board since joining Community Hospital in 2008. He also serves on the board of directors of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, the business recruitment and economic development organization.
The reason is partly selfish, he says. In promoting a strong economy, businesses flourish, more people are covered by health insurance and Community Hospital earns more income. “A strong economy is good for Community Hospital.”
At the same time, though, it’s a proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats, he says, “A strong economy is good for all of us.”
That economy has grown stronger even as its become more diverse and the Grand Valley and its lifestyle attract more businesses and people, he says. “I think we’re on the uptick.”
Thomas brings to his role as chamber chairman experience in management and the health care industry.
In nearly 11 years with Community Hospital, Thomas has led an organization that’s constructed a new hospital, added new service lines and expanded staff. The board of trustees overseeing the hospital recently entered into a formal agreement to consider the possibility of joining the Centura Health regional health care organization.
Thomas says he recognized the potential for that kind of growth when he first considered the job even though the hospital was struggling financially at the time.
Prior to joining Community Hospital, Thomas worked as president and CEO of the Central Kansas Medical Center in Great Bend and in management positions at hospitals in his native Iowa.
Thomas says he transitioned into hospital management from his work at long-term care facilities in South Dakota and Colorado.
Thomas says his career choice was based in part on a family connection. His mother worked as a nursing home administrator and his grandfather owned and operated nursing homes. But Thomas says he also was looking for a career that was likely to remain in demand as well as helps others. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration.
Health care has proven an exciting career, he says, and his work at Community Hospital has been the most professionally rewarding.
Collaboration has been an important part, he says, as Community Hospital partners with physicians and other health care professionals as well as large groups of employers to provide services. The hospital doesn’t care for patients, he says. It cares for the patients of doctors. And that’s an important distinction. A culture of caring acknowledges the efforts of individuals, he says. “The facility is nice, but it’s still the people.”
Transparency is important as well, and Thomas says he regularly stages forums to keep employees apprised of changes and sometimes dispel rumors. “I want them to know what’s happening before they hear it at the grocery store.”
A commitment is at the core of it all, he says. “Just do the right thing.”
The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce similarly collaborates with other business organizations and local government entities, Thomas says.
He says he’s especially encouraged by the collaboration among the chamber, GJEP and Business Incubator Center in defining their roles in economic development and avoiding duplicate efforts. “Everybody is on the same page with economic development.”
While the chamber focuses on helping existing businesses, GJEP recruits new businesses and the Business Incubator Center helps entrepreneurs start businesses, he says. The City of Grand Junction and Mesa County have increased their support for economic development efforts and creating a business-friendly environment, he says.
The chamber collaborates with members by not only promoting a strong economy, but also advocating on their behalf, Thomas says. That can mean helping businesses get through local planning regulations or lobbying on their behalf on state and federal legislation. In addition, the chamber serves as a source of information on business issues.
It’s essential, he says, the chamber provide value to its members, even when they’re too busy with business to fully participate in chamber events.
Just like Community Hospital takes care of patients, Thomas wants to make sure the chamber takes care of business.