McLaren is a hospital organization well-respected and highly-esteemed in not only Genesee County, but in other parts of Michigan, as well. Certainly, staff members who work with patients every day contribute to the great reputation; but behind every great organization is a great team, and a great team requires a great leader.
Don Kooy, President and CEO of McLaren Flint, has helped lead and shape the hospital into what it is today. When he joined McLaren Flint in 2003, he successfully took on the challenge of enhancing the hospital’s clinical service lines and improving overall financial performance.
After growing up in Galien, Michigan, Kooy attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Business in 1979 and a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration in 1983.
Once Kooy earned his business degree, he began working for a computer company as a systems analyst. As he visited some of the company’s hospital clients, he found himself wondering who managed those places. He became more interested in the field of healthcare and went back to graduate school for Hospital Administration. To gain experience, he worked as a day-shift computer operator at a hospital in Niles, Michigan, which helped him get into the graduate school program.
Kooy has worked at several hospitals in eastern Michigan, including Gladwin Hospital and Nursing Home, and Providence Hospital in Southfield – both of which he helped improve financial performance and eliminate losses. In 1994, he was hired as CEO at the McLaren Hospital in Lapeer, achieving financial and clinical improvements in his first year there.
“I like the idea that McLaren is in the non-profit, service-oriented industry,” says Kooy. “We have a service mission to the community, and that’s a lot more rewarding to me than a traditional business. We provide a valuable, essential service to the community.”
After assuming the position of CEO at McLaren Flint in 2003, Kooy’s first year was spent connecting with primary care physicians, building employee relations, realigning the operating budget and establishing the McLaren Foundation.
“It was rewarding,” he shares. “It’s fun to come in and fix something, to make decisions, implement initiatives, watch it happen, and see things improve for everybody.”
Under Kooy’s leadership, McLaren Flint undertook many construction projects from 2005 to 2007, including expanding the Heart and Vascular area, the Cancer Center, the operating rooms, and the Emergency Room – a project which totaled $44 million. One of the more recent construction projects was the Hospitality House at McLaren, an $8 million project that provides low-cost or no-cost housing for out-of-town family members and patients who are receiving treatment at McLaren Flint.
“These were expansions that were sorely needed to allow us to bring in new technology and patient treatment options, as well as to recruit and retain physician specialists and clinicians to work in these areas,” he said.
Since those initial improvements, Kooy has continued to focus efforts on enhancing clinical quality and growth, patient service, employee and physician engagement and financial performance. Throughout Kooy’s tenure as CEO, McLaren Flint has earned numerous accolades and achievements for both overall patient care and services, as well as for specific service lines such as heart and vascular, cancer, the neurosciences, stroke, orthopedics, bariatric and metabolic surgery, and women’s health services.
“We are really good stewards of our resources,” he said. “We are here to provide an essential service to the community. That’s something we take very seriously.”
According to McLaren’s community benefit reports, McLaren Flint provides more than $30 million a year in uncompensated care to those in need, as well as an additional $10 million value in services that address community needs beyond traditional health care.
While much of Kooy’s role as CEO entails overseeing hospital operations and making strategic decisions, he also enjoys visiting patients and staff a couple times a week. “The desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world,” he shares. “I need to get out and see what’s going on.” Visiting patients and staff allows him the chance to hear patients’ stories, as well as hear from the staff about what is working well and what needs improvement. “It’s easy to lose that perspective when I am not out visiting patients and staff,” Kooy says. “My role is to support the people who do take care of patients.”
Since McLaren Flint is part of a larger, 12-hospital system (McLaren Health Care) Kooy noted there are several areas in which McLaren Flint benefits from this leverage, including insurance and administrative costs, supply purchasing, clinical quality and information systems.
“Over the past several years, we have more formally integrated and coordinated our efforts between all the hospitals in the system,” Kooy explains. “The newly-created McLaren Stroke Network is a good example of how patients across the state can benefit from the integration of our clinical services and expertise in stroke care throughout the McLaren system. Moving forward, we need to continue to standardize operating procedures to improve quality and safety, reduce costs and promote patient satisfaction with our services.”
When he is not at McLaren Flint, Kooy is involved in community leadership roles, as well. He serves on the board of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Flint Health Coalition. He and his wife, Patti, are active parents of three children.
“It’s fun to come in and fix something, to make decisions, implement initiatives, watch it happen, and see things improve for everybody.”
Photography by Eric Dutro