ThedaCare president/CEO announces retirement

Dean Gruber
Dr. Dean Gruner (photo provided)

NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) – As the largest healthcare provider in Northeast Wisconsin considers a plan to merge two of its biggest hospitals, it will do so under new leadership.

he president and CEO of ThedaCare, who oversaw the growth of ThedaCare into the area’s largest healthcare provider and turned it into one of the area’s largest employers, announced his retirement Tuesday.

Dr. Dean Gruner has held the top post since April 2008.

ThedaCare operates seven hospitals and 34 clinics in nine counties and employs 7,000 people.

Gruner, 62, said in a statement he plans to “stay involved 100 percent” while the board of trustees looks for his successor.

What’s uncertain is whether that will be before or after ThedaCare makes a final decision on the construction of a new Fox Valley regional medical center.

The decision to merge the former Appleton Medical Center and Theda-Clark is still in the informational stage, according to ThedaCare.

“It would have been nice if we could have done this ten years ago, but I don’t think the community was prepared for it then. But I think we’re prepared to have that serious conversation today,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

ThedaCare says it’s looking at several potential sites for the regional medical center, including Butte des Morts Country Club in Grand Chute.

Terry Timm, vice chair on the ThedaCare board of trustees, doesn’t expect this announcement to stall the process.

“His management team is really deeply aligned behind this, and frankly at this point they’re doing most of the heavy lifting of which he’s overseeing and supervising, so we’re in a really good position as an organization,” Timm said.

The board of trustees says a national executive search firm was hired and will look both inside and outside the company for Gruner’s successor. They expect the hiring process to take six to nine months.

Gruner was a practicing family physician when his group became part of ThedaCare in 1994. Six years later, he was named chief medical officer for ThedaCare, then was named senior vice president of ThedaCare’s ambulatory care practice. He was one of the founding physicians of the Touchpoint Health Plan, which was sold to United Healthcare in 2004.

“I thought long and hard about this decision, and I look forward to getting more involved in community building, volunteering and doing mission work,” Gruner wrote. “I also want to spend more time with my wife Pam, family and friends – especially my three adorable grandchildren.”

He continued, “This is a new era of healthcare and I am proud that ThedaCare has a strong leadership team in place to continue our journey.”