Nathan White, 37

Chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, San­ford Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Modern Healthcare - - UP & COMERS - —Rachel Lan­den

Nate White is no stranger to high­pres­sure sit­u­a­tions.

But th­ese days, it’s not about hit­ting crit­i­cal free throws dur­ing a bas­ket­ball game for the for­mer Au­gus­tana Col­lege team cap­tain. It’s about over­see­ing op­er­a­tions at a $3 bil­lion ru­ral, not-for-profit health sys­tem, where he has spent nearly a decade of his ca­reer.

White, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of San­ford Health, first joined the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based sys­tem in 2000 as an ex­ec­u­tive in­tern after CEO Kelby Krabben­hoft per­suaded him to con­sider health­care ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Krabben­hoft first met White dur­ing the bas­ket­ball player’s late teens and said he knew about his lead­er­ship skills in the locker room and in the class­room. Rec­og­niz­ing his po­ten­tial, Krabben­hoft of­fered White the op­por­tu­nity to shadow him for a year at San­ford Health. “I told him, ‘If you’re suc­cess­ful, we’ll schol­ar­ship you,’” Krabben­hoft said. And he was.

“In very short or­der, you fig­ured out that this was a very sharp young man, very in­tu­itive,” said Cindy Mor­ri­son, San­ford Health’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and pub­lic pol­icy, who first met White dur­ing his in­tern­ship.

The next year, White be­gan law school at the Univer­sity of Kansas. Three years later, he was an at­tor­ney with Wilmer Cut­ler Pick­er­ing Hale and Dorr in Wash­ing­ton. He prac­ticed there for just un­der two years be­fore he re­turned to San­ford.

Since his re­turn, White, who re­joined the sys­tem as as­so­ciate gen­eral coun­sel be­fore ad­vanc­ing to COO, has led ef­forts to im­prove care de­liv­ery and fi­nan­cial per­for­mance. That in­cluded a cost trans­for­ma­tion pro­gram that re­sulted in $115 mil­lion in sav­ings and a 3.3% net op­er­at­ing mar­gin across the 45-hos­pi­tal sys­tem. White is also lead­ing a $500 mil­lion project to build San­ford Fargo Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

But it’s not just what White has done from a strate­gic or op­er­a­tional per­spec­tive that makes him stand out. Com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and ser­vice, Krabben­hoft said, is in White’s DNA. “It’s part of his per­sona.”

For ex­am­ple, White has been in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of a 160-acre sports com­plex in the re­gion that houses ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties and hosts fit­ness ac­tiv­i­ties for lo­cal youth, some­thing that is close to his heart.

“A lot of the lessons I learned through ath­let­ics I im­part ev­ery day—build­ing a team, mo­ti­vat­ing a team, rep­e­ti­tion, hold­ing peo­ple ac­count­able,” White said.

CALL HIM COACH: “If I have a man­age­ment style, it’s that of a coach. But some­times I find my­self us­ing a few too many sports analo­gies.”

HIS FARM­ING ROOTS: Grew up on the same South Dakota farm his great-great-grand­fa­ther home­steaded in the late 1800s.

WORST JOB: Spent sum­mers pulling weeds in soy­bean fields.

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