Dr. Steven Mulder’s office doesn’t appear big enough to contain his responsibilities as the 10-year president and CEO of Hutchinson Health. The title itself can intimidate, an initial feeling washed away by Mulder’s grin. He smiles often. He takes time to think before speaking. While being CEO of anything sounds life-encompassing, Mulder, who is 67, has plenty going on outside of the hospital.
He loves New Yorker comics, for example. And when he retires next month, he’ll visit his 11 grandchildren, travel around and teach part time as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota.
“We just became the proud owners of a Detroit Lakes cabin last summer,” Mulder said. “We plan to spend more time there.”
It started with his 1995 job at Hutchinson Medical Center’s Winsted branch as a family physician. He transferred to Hutchinson in 2000 to become the full-time medical director. In the ensuing years, he took on additional roles such as vice president of medical affairs, director of clinical services, director of patient safety and finally president and CEO in 2009.
“My transition from clinical to administrative work happened naturally,” he said. “That part has been fun, because I was literally forced to learn something new each day. It keeps you sharp and on your toes.”
Mulder led the hospital in a long list of achievements, including its privatization in 2008. In 2013, Hutchinson Area Health Care and the Hutchinson Medical Center merged into Hutchinson Health. The hospital partnered with HealthPartners in 2018, which led to its upcoming expansion.
“(The merger) broke down some structural barriers between the hospital and the clinic,” Mulder said. “From the outside, our services and processes probably looked fairly seamless to the community. Internally, there were a lot of legal and regulatory barriers we had to get through to make that work.”
Becoming affiliated with HeathPartners was an important milestone for Hutchinson Health, Mulder said.
“We’re demonstrating to the community our commitment to continue to provide high-quality inpatient care to patients who need that care,” he said.
Mulder said he’ll remember his 10-year run fondly.
“(I’m proud of) all staff, from clinical to non-clinical,” he said. “Everyone plays a part in providing great medical care to our community and increasingly trying to promote healthier living in our community. That’s all been done in a culture of empathy and service, and I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of it.”
According to Mulder, the hospital will continue to improve its processes well after his departure on April 11. He said he’ll be watching with great interest as Jim Lyons, his successor, builds on to Hutchinson Health’s achievements.
One bit of advice he imparted to Lyons is “trust your team.”
“Make full use of their talents,” he said. “Keep everybody’s gaze on the strategic goals we’ve all set for ourselves.”
In addition to improvements to Hutchinson Health, Mulder said he wants to see changes in health care systemwide.
“As everyone knows, the cost of health care in our country is too high,” he said. “It’s difficult for one small entity like Hutchinson Health to try to turn that trend around and stabilize and reduce the cost of health care. (HealthPartners) is a leader in trying to lower the cost of health care and make it simpler and more understandable.”
Hutchinson Health, according to Mulder, is a leader in modern health care and will hopefully continue to be.
“We’ve worked hard to develop processes that ensure care that’s driven by evidence-based medical science,” he said. “(Those processes) are also patient-centered and provide the best possible experience to families in often trying situations.”
Lyons will assume his role as president and CEO April 12.