SCL Health decided the best person to take over as president of St. Mary's Medical Center had already spent the past two months on the job.
Last week, the organization named Bryan Johnson president, lifting the interim tag he held since Brian Davidson left the position in mid June. Johnson came on board at St. Mary's in 2016 as vice president and chief operating.
Johnson told The Daily Sentinel back in June that he was interested in staying on as president, but said Thursday that he had expected a long search. Johnson officially became president Aug. 9.
"I was extremely excited," he said. "My family and I love Grand Junction."
Johnson has previous executive experience, serving as administrator of Intermountain Alta View Hospital in Sandy, Utah where he oversaw strategic direction, operations, quality improvement and financials.
He and his family were drawn to the Grand Valley by the small-town feel the area brings, he said.
"It's big enough to have amenities, but small enough to have personal relationships. We see patients who are friends and neighbors," he said of Grand Junction.
Since coming to St. Mary's, Johnson has played a role in improving the admissions process for the inpatient rehabilitation unit and launching a new, less invasive cardiovascular service for the hospital that allows patients to stay close to home.
Johnson will adjust from being purely an operations person to the public face of the hospital. He said he'll spend time working with community members and various local boards, but will keep his focus on the hospital. One of his first goals is to improve the quality of care at the hospital while also finding a way to lower costs in the area. He feels his background puts him in a good position to tackle the issue.
"In Grand Junction generally, all the facilities on the Western Slope are too expensive. We've done a lot of work with that," Johnson said. "I think understanding the inner workings are important. Now as president, I can focus on driving costs down while maintaining quality."
Johnson said the hospital has kept its prices fairly steady in the past few years rather than increase them, but said more work is needed.
"If we want people to have access to care, it's got to be affordable," he said.
He also discussed some of the bills passed in the Colorado State Legislature this year and believes the reinsurance bill will have an impact on premium costs. Reinsurance is a form of insurance bought by insurance companies to lessen their risk.
"I may not agree with how it was implemented, but I think it's the right thing to do. I think we'll see immediate impact from that in the area," he said.
Johnson plans to continue partnering with rural hospitals to improve health care throughout western Colorado. The hospital will also work to recruit new doctors to the Grand Valley.
"We want people who are interested in smaller communities and this lifestyle," he said. "It narrows the field a bit, but it's kind of what accustomed to."
Johnson will be the fifth president at St. Mary's since Dan Prinster, vice president of strategy and business development, came aboard roughly 20 years ago.
Prinster said Johnson's background in operations will be beneficial to St. Mary's and he feels Johnson can blend that side with community outreach.
"I think he brings some unique talents that we haven't had in the past," Prinster said.