Health care professionals are flocking to the hospital board race. Two surgeons, a surgical assistant, a retired OB-GYN and a longtime hospital critic are seeking election.
It’s a crowded field for the St. John’s Medical Center board of trustees election this fall. Ten candidates filed for four open spots on the seven-seat board, which oversees the public nonprofit hospital. Incumbents Joe Albright, Liz Masek and Michael Tennican are running for re-election. Trustee Barbara Herz has decided not to.
The general election is Nov. 6.
Joe Albright has been on the board nine years, having been appointed in 2009 and elected in 2010. He said he’s never missed a meeting.
“I’m ready to keep working for the best possible medical care in our community,” he said.
Albright’s background qualifies him well for the board, he said. As a former reporter and editor he prides himself on being trained to listen and ask tough questions.
Albright has experience overseeing the hospital’s building projects as a member of the facilities committee and is a certified health care navigator, experience he said gives him perspective on the enrollment process for getting health insurance.
Linda Aurelio is co-chairwoman of the Living Center task force and an advisor to the hospital board. She has also served as vice chairwoman of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation board.
With a master’s in hospital administration and a business background as founder of Sonographic Services Inc., Aurelio said it’s a “natural step” to move onto the board as an elected official. She was previously a department chief at George Washington University, where she practiced and taught diagnostic ultrasound and did early research in AIDS, CVS and prostate cancer.
Her priorities include moving forward with Sage Living, the name for the new Living Center once it is built, continuing to improve quality, adding vital services and taking a “rigorous approach to cost containment as we all struggle with the rising costs of health care.”
Joshua Beck is a surgeon at Teton Orthopaedics who specializes in spine surgery, joint replacement surgery and fracture management. He is certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and fellowship trained at Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Temple Children’s Hospital and Cooper University Medical Center.
Beck earned his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and completed his orthopedic surgery residency at Geisinger Medical Center.
Beck could not be reached for an interview before press time.
Kyle Burson said he’d work hard as a hospital trustee.
“I’d like to keep the good doctors here because they’ve had a problem with that in the past,” he said, “and create more jobs at the hospital, especially in the billing department. And maybe give the nurses a raise.”
Burson, an employee at Vertical Harvest, lives with cerebral palsy and lymphedema. His legs are wrapped at St. John’s several times a week.
“That’s why I spend a lot of time at the hospital,” he said.
Susan Crosser is a former patient who’s been calling for changes and improvements to the hospital for years in a series of ads. She ran for the board in 2014 and 2016.
Crosser wants to focus on doing what is reasonable for a small, rural hospital and not push into services that “can’t be sustained in a competent manner.”
“I’m a retired CPA who has spent way too much time in the medical services from the patient side,” Crosser said. “So I bring the patient perspective to the board as well as the long-term resident of Teton County perspective to the board, a long-term resident who actually worked here. I really wish we had fresh blood on the board that understands what a working person, including their own staff, deals with. ... They just don’t get it.”
Retired OB-GYN Joyce Frye ran for the hospital board two years ago. She’s still fired up and said her experience as a physician in acute settings, like the operating room and the delivery room, would be valuable.
“I have a bit more understanding at this point,” she said. “I’ve been going to board meetings, and they’re not as informative as I’d like. I’m running to have a better understanding of what actually goes on behind the scenes. We get all these glowing reports, but I guess medically, I’m a bit of a cynic.”
Her concerns revolve around focusing on the bottom line over patient care and how the hospital is approaching competition and community relations.
Frye held several roles in her professional career on the East Coast, including chairwoman of the gynecology department at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in West Philadelphia. She has a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Science in clinical epidemiology.
Liz Masek is a former public relations professional with master’s in health advocacy with a practicum at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She was appointed and elected to the board in 2014 and is co-chairwoman of the Living Center task force.
“We still have a lot of work to do, and I want to keep moving that ball along,” Masek said.
She wants to continue to stay on top of health care changes, both nationally and regionally, and work collaboratively with the community.
“One my goals for the next few years is to make sure that everyone has a voice in the community, especially our mental health community,” Masek said. “As a patient advocate I always try to advocate for those people, the voices that don’t always get heard.”
Chris Schroeder is a surgical first assistant at St. John’s Medical Center. He moved to the valley in 1995 and has been involved with the hospital and the health care system ever since. Schroeder serves on the board of governors at Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake.
“Throughout that time things have changed a lot, and the hospital has changed a lot,” Schroeder said. “Having watched it and been a part of it I’m ready to try and help. It’s definitely time to get some new blood and new perspectives on the board.”
He sees a graying population as the impetus to focus on servicing geriatric patients effectively here.
“It’s not just rancher injuries and ACLs anymore,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder also wants to see competition that “focuses on the health of the constituency.”
“Reaching out cooperation is important right now, as opposed to direct competition,” he said.
Skene is a doctor at Teton Orthopaedics. He specializes in nonsurgical spine, back and neck, electromyography and epidural steroid injections. He’s certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and fellowship trained at the Florida Spine Institute.
Skene earned his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and completed his physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at the University of Washington Medical Center.
Skene could not be reached for an interview before press time.
Tennican was appointed to the board in 2009 and elected in 2010. He has been chairman and treasurer, presiding as the hospital made “major strides in service quality and financial strength.”
“While we can’t rest on our efforts to maintain the highest level of quality, I think that threats to our long-term financial viability is now my primary concern,” Tennican said. “Given the financial challenges confronting St. John’s, I concluded I should run again and continue to work toward the long-term financial survival and success of our valuable community asset.”