Alum Named Young Healthcare Executive of the Year
In the mid-90s, Kevin Unger was shuttling newlyweds in a classic 1933 Packard Town Car.
Then he decided to go to graduate school.
“Between the traffic and the stressfulness of the weddings, I wouldn’t trade that job for what I am doing now for anything,” jokes Unger, MS ’98, MBA ’98, president and CEO of Poudre Valley Hospital (PVH).
In 2009, Unger, 39, was named Young Healthcare Executive of the Year by the American College of Healthcare Executives, topping off a list of accomplishments that have propelled him from being a chauffeur to overseeing a 241-bed hospital in less than a decade. He’s helped usher PVH through its most rapid expansion since 1925, helped implement a host of initiatives to boost patient satisfaction and helped the hospital garner a presidential award that he’ll collect from President Obama this year.
“He’s a remarkable leader,” said Rulon Stace y, president and CEO of Poudre Valley Health System, which owns PVH.
Unger traces his passion for health care to graduate school, when he interned at University of Colorado Hospital and sat in on the planning for the new Anschutz Medical Campus. Soon after, he spent two years with First Consulting Group helping hospitals improve medical records and insurance companies improve customer service. “I got to see healthcare from both sides of the fence,” he says.
That skill came in handy in 2001 when Unger landed a job as vice president of planning and strategic development at PVH. At the time, the hospital was routinely running at 80 to 90 per¬cent capacity and often fell short of beds. And, in the wake of an Institute of Medicine report on medical errors, hospitals everywhere were under pressure to improve safety.
“I was stepping into a position I was certainly not familiar with, but I was probably naïve enough to not know any better,” says Unger, who four years later was promoted to CEO.
Under his watch, patient satisfaction scores have risen to 80 percent in 2008 from 72 percent in 2002. Hospital-acquired infections have dipped 8.5 percent, and the hospital has experienced no critical medication errors for more than 12 months. In 2008, PVH received the U.S. Commerce Department’s Malcolm Baldridge Award, a presidential honor that recognizes models of innovation.
But it doesn’t stop there. As the nation grapples with how to fix a broken healthcare system, Unger hopes to play an important role.
“I’m not sure the answers to curing the healthcare woes lie in Washington. Instead, they lie in Fort Collins and communities focused on providing high-quality care at the lowest cost possible. We can influence what is happening in this community and that can be a model for the nation.”
Lisa Marshall, April 2009