Gundersen C.E.O. is stepping down, will help find replacement

Dr. Jeff Thompson says now is the time to step aside

One of La Crosse’s largest employers is changing leadership.

Gundersen Health System of La Crosse is looking for a new C.E.O. after Dr. Jeff Thompson announced he is stepping down as the hospital’s chief executive.

After 14 years, Dr. Thompson says now is the perfect time to step down. He says the decision is not based on his health and he’s not being forced out.

In fact, the hospital is doing as well as it ever has, and that is why Thompson says its the perfect time for a change.

While his announcement to step down may be a surprise to the public, it’s been in the works for a while. “We have been working on this for quite a while,” said Dr. Thompson, “We’ve been planning for my change out almost from the time I started.”

One thing that makes this move different is that change at top rarely happens when an organization is doing so well. But Thompson feels that’s the perfect time for a change. “I wanted to look at the health and well being of the organization and say now when we have good momentum, now when our quality is good, our service is good, we have a good positive movement forward,” said Dr. Thompson, “that would be a good time to make a change, it’s going to happen sometime.”

“The best time when organization is doing well,” said Greg Prairie from Gundersen Health System.

Prairie says when Thompson approached the board with his decision, the board knew it was the right one. “Knowing Jeff I believe it was an appropriate approach on his part, he is very much dedicated to this organization and he wants the best going forward,” said Prairie.

So why now?  Thompson says there wasn’t one specific reason, it just felt like the right time. But that didn’t make it an easy decision. “It was hard, it is hard and you’ll never know whether it’s the perfect time until you’re through it and you might now know then, but it seemed like a very good time,” said Dr. Thompson.

With the decision behind him, Thompson is confident Gundersen team will continue on the same path. “I think they’ll focus and really push to improve our quality and lower our costs, those things we are responsible to do, so I think we’ll do fine,” said Dr. Thompson.

A six person board has been formed to help in the search for candidates. Thompson will be a big part of that search.

As for his future, Thompson wants to stay on with the hospital and help any way he can. He stressed this is not a retirement, he is simply stepping down as C.E.O.

Thompson says they will start their search internally, but will look outside the hospital as well. They will start the interview process immediately.

The hospital hopes to have an announcement of a new C.E.O. by this summer.