36 Chief operating officer University of Colorado Hospital
THOMAS GRONOW HAD DREAMED of being a pilot from the time he was 5 years old.
He was just about to graduate from renowned aviation school Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., when terrorists hijacked commercial airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, and slammed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
When the tourism industry immediately collapsed as well, Gronow knew it would be years of low-paying jobs teaching flying lessons before he ever got a shot at a commercial position. So he abandoned his dream to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare administration, after which he quickly found a home at the UPMC health system as chief operating officer of its Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Then in 2014, he took his current position at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora after turning down three other job offers for similar positions. Gronow said he was attracted to the growth potential of the then-4-year-old academic health system, which has plans to spend $1.5 billion to build five hospitals over the next five years.
“The real big factor for me was culture. When I walked into this organization, it was palpable how supportive this culture is, how aligned it is in treating the patient holistically, and it had outcomes that matched that culture,” Gronow said. “It’s a growing system. Opportunities abound. We’ll be opening five hospitals and multiple ambulatory surgery sites. And there’s a pathway for me to move into a CEO spot down the road.”
Since taking the COO role at the University of Colorado Hospital, Gronow has guided the operation to $1.44 billion in revenue and a 22% EBITDA margin.