Dr. Gordon Alexander, president and CEO of Children's Hospital Central California, has logged more than 17,000 miles promoting the hospital since he took the job eight months ago.
He considers the hospital one of the greatest, best-kept secrets of the central San Joaquin Valley.
"This is a really unique situation. It's one of the top 10 children's hospitals in the country but it isn't in a major metropolitan area like Chicago or Detroit. It's here in this Valley," Alexander says.
That is why he has been so motivated to spread the word through speaking engagements, and even chats at local restaurants.
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"One woman told me that when she was 2, she was a patient at Valley Children's downtown. Two years ago, her son was 2, and they were at Children's Hospital. She basically said 'so here's your job. Make sure that doesn't change either now or in the future.' "
His background should help him do just that.
The University of Minnesota Medical School graduate started his practice in 1980 as an Ob/Gyn. He gave up his practice when he was hired as president of the University of Minnesota Medical Center. He ran the 800-bed hospital, which includes a 207-bed children's hospital, for 11 years.
Children's Hospital was in good shape financially when Alexander took over, but he says there are some challenges ahead for the hospital.
"We need to be more nimble to be ready to deal with the financial crisis at the state," Alexander says. "Federal reform. What does that mean? Health care of a kid is getting more and more expensive."
Alexander's priorities are dealing with the economy, promoting the hospital's good work and maintaining its special culture.
"Our employment satisfaction survey shows that we are in the 97th percentile. That doesn't happen without a lot of effort by a lot of people," Alexander says. "The management team and board team here have made a commitment to the employees and the community."
There are other concerns that come with being the boss. Alexander gave up his practice to become an administrator and there are times when he misses the one-on-one connection with patients. But, he knows his job is to create the best situation for a lot of doctors to have those one-on-one connections.
When he's not at the hospital or on the road, Alexander can be found at the 60-acre home he and his wife, Lisa, share northeast of Clovis. They have a large menagerie of animals: 18 alpacas, three donkeys, seven horses and five dogs (most are rescues).
When the couple moved here eight months ago from Minnesota, they had the six horses and 10 acres.
In describing their concern for taking in animals, Lisa says they've tried to create a safe place where there is love and trust. And, while the financial ramifications are never forgotten, the bottom line is to offer the best care possible to the animals no matter what.
That same thing can be said about the way Alexander runs Children's Hospital.
"My job since 1980 – since I got out of medical school – is healing," he says. "My passion is healing. And now it's how do we create an environment where we can grow? One thing's for certain: It's a real benefit for kids in the Valley to stay in the Valley when they get sick."