Published on May 02, 2016

Incoming Lawrence Memorial Hospital CEO looks forward to continuing hospital’s success

Lawrence Memorial Hospital, 325 Maine St.

Journal-World File Photo. Enlarge photo

By Nikki Wentling, Lawrence Journal World reporter

In his first three to six months on the job, Russ Johnson, Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s new president and CEO, wants to take time to understand the hospital and its place in the Lawrence community.

Russell W. JohnsonRussell W. Johnson

He plans to listen to physicians, review data, find out the challenges in Douglas County for the population’s health and determine what could be improved.

“It’s the only hospital in the community, so it has a very prominent and important place,” Johnson said. “Understanding that and the culture and really seeing where we can add some value and additional focus is important. Some of that is going to be continuing what’s already there, but I suspect someone with a different perspective and background may see things that, when you’ve been there for a long time, you just don’t see any more.”

The hospital’s Board of Trustees named Johnson, 57, as the new CEO during a special meeting called Thursday evening. He’ll replace current CEO Gene Meyer, who is set to retire May 31 after 19 years in the position.

A nationwide search for a new CEO started in August and drew more than 150 applications from candidates in 16 states.

Johnson, an executive at Centura Health System in Englewood, Colo., previously served as CEO of San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center in Alamosa, Colo.

As senior vice president of network development and outreach at Centura, he was responsible for the system’s telehealth initiatives and working with partner hospitals, among other things.

After three years with Centura, Johnson said he wanted to regain a “sense of community and sense of personal engagement.”

“I had that at the San Luis Valley for 12 years,” Johnson said. “You have that with a big system, but it’s just different. It’s not impersonal, but it’s personal in a different way.”

Johnson grew up in Merriam, and both he and his wife, Isabel, have family in Johnson County. The family ties were a draw, Johnson said, and so, too, was the idea of heading a “strong” and “financially sound” hospital.

“It’s just a really good place,” he said of LMH. “It’s not in need of a turnaround; it’s not in crisis. It just needs a leader who can continue the good things already being done and who will add some new perspectives. I think there’s every reason to feel enthusiastic and optimistic about the future.”

The hospital’s board is working with Johnson to determine his start date, which will most likely be the last week of July or first week of August, he said.

Karen Shumate, LMH's chief operating officer, will serve as interim CEO from June 1 until Johnson arrives.

Incoming Lawrence Memorial Hospital CEO looks forward to continuing hospital’s success

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