The Business Record caught up with Tom Mulrooney, who was recently named interim CEO of Story County Medical Center in Nevada, after the hospital’s affiliation shifted from Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines to Iowa Health - Des Moines in February. Prior to starting his current position, he served as assistant vice president of Iowa Health - Des Moines for three years. In 2010, he was voted “Best Up and Coming Business Leader Under 40” by Business Record readers.


Did this opportunity come up quickly for you?

One of the things that’s always been true in my career, when the leadership here asks me to take on something new, I have a lot of trust in them. They knew what my skill sets were and thought I’d be the right person to get things going through this transition period, and I’m very appreciative of the support our leadership team has shown to me.


Was there any particular issue that wasn’t being addressed that led to the change in affiliation?


I can’t speak to why (the Story Count Medical Center board) made the decision they did. I think what was attractive to the board was our vision for (increasing quality, patient satisfaction and being more cost-effective), and being a very provider-centric organization. If we’re going to be successful (in those areas), we’ve got to change the way we do business. The best part about this is, ultimately where we go will depend on where the people of Story County want to go.


Your priorities in the next few months?

I think a lot of it is like any medical organization – how do we take care of the patients we have today, the quality issues we have to adhere to, the demands that everybody is feeling nationally as well. For me, it’s how we work through those issues. Within this leadership position, I have to build relationships and trust so that no matter what the issues are, we can go forward in how we’re going to face those together. From there, I wish I had a crystal ball to see what issues are going to come next.


What have been some key things you’ve worked on in your previous position?

The last few years, most of my responsibilities have centered around the changing dynamic between how hospitals and doctors need to work together going forward in the future. A couple of pieces I’ve focused a lot of my time on have been development of our cardiology and our oncology co-management agreements. Those really create a structure for us to work together ... to bring it to a group where all the decision-makers are at the table and we can go about addressing those things. I think we’ve seen some great results in terms of improving patient satisfaction; we’ve made gains in quality measures; we’ve improved cost-effectiveness on some things as well. Some of that’s not always plainly evident driving past the building, but these are very subtle things that are going to position us well going forward.


What sort of outside activities are you busy with?

I’m still an adjunct faculty member for the University of Iowa Master of Health Administration program, and I’ll actually be back (in March) lecturing at a class there. I’m on the Iowa Association of Healthcare Leaders board, and I’m on the Free Clinics of Iowa board of directors. And I’ve been involved in other community things through Iowa Health. And going forward, I’ll be meeting a lot more of the community in Story County, and I think that will be important in building the new relationship between Story Medical and Iowa Health.


What personal goals are on your agenda?

I’m hopeful that this will be the first year that I’ll participate in at least one leg of RAGBRAI. Two of my brothers are coming from Illinois to sign up with me. Maybe by saying this here, I’ll hold myself accountable to get it done. I’m hoping to get out soon on my bike.


What do you view as your formula for success?

For me, it’s helping others be successful. I think great leaders don’t necessarily focus in on what they achieve; it’s all about what others around them can do. My focus is, how do I set the right environment so that people are really passionate about what they do, what they take great pride in and can be really successful at? I think really great leaders know how to get obstacles out of people’s way to free them up to focus on what they do. That’s what I hope to achieve in any position that I take on.