Becky Kuhn won’t be carrying cardboard boxes filled with her office supplies when she moves from her current work station at the Banner Mesa Medical Center to her new office at the Banner Gateway facility in Gilbert.
“I’ll just be carrying my purse,” said Kuhn. “Just my purse — it’s symbolic of what we’re accomplishing by our move.”
Kuhn, 55, is chief executive officer of the Banner Mesa Medical Center, 525 W. Brown Road, Mesa.
She will assume the same leadership title when the 44-year-old Mesa hospital closes and the new, $200 million Banner Gateway Medical Center opens its doors in September at Higley Road and U.S. 60 in Gilbert.
What is symbolic of a handheld purse replacing filled cardboard moving boxes?
“Our new hospital is an example of the electronic age,” answered the CEO. “We won’t need tons of paper to keep medical records. Everything will be done by computer.”
Kuhn, a veteran nurse and hospital administrator, has already initiated the use of computers as part of the hospital’s health care program in Mesa.
And the high-tech electronics are just one phase of the complex operations of running a hospital — and, now, as she prepares to relocate, adds to the challenge of successfully setting up a new health care facility in a rapidly growing area of the East Valley.
“So far we’ve been very successful,” said Kuhn, who became CEO of the Mesa hospital in 2002. “We have a great team of people — leaders and staff.”
Banner Mesa Medical Center’s more than 1,000 employees will also relocate to the new, 168-bed hospital that is nearly completed.
The future of the old hospital building is uncertain, but discussions are under way to make a final decision.
It would have taken more than $130 million to renovate the old facility, formerly Mesa Lutheran Hospital, thus the decision by Banner Health, a nonprofit health service company with seven medical centers in the Valley and four others outside of Maricopa County, to build the new hospital.
In 1999, Mesa Lutheran Hospital merged with Samaritan Health System to become Banner Health. In 2003, Mesa Lutheran announced its new name, Banner Mesa Medical Center.
The parent company, Banner Health, has more than 25,000 employees in seven states, including nearly 17,000 in Arizona, and about $2.6 billion in annual revenue and assets totaling $3.1 billion. It is one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country.
Kuhn, who played a major role in developing and carrying out the plan for the new Gilbert hospital, traces her success as an administrative executive to her childhood. “As a kid growing up on a farm in Moline, Illinois, I always wanted to be a nurse,” Kuhn recalled.
Her favorite characters from history are, of course, Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern-day nurses and Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.
Her family, including her parents and two sisters, moved to Tempe when Kuhn was 11. She attended McKemy Middle School and McClintock High School, then earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Arizona State University. She later received a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Arizona.
Kuhn specialized in critical care nursing. She worked as a staff nurse, educator and specialist from 1974 to 1987 at the University of California — Los Angeles and as CEO at Paradise Valley Hospital from 1995 until becoming CEO at the Mesa hospital.
“Traditionally, most hospital CEOs were men but things began changing during the past decade,” Kuhn said. “Now, its not unusual for a woman to hold that position.”
However, Kuhn admits it is uncommon for a CEO to be appointed as CEO to another, new hospital being built nearby.
Besides being administrative head of the Mesa facility, Kuhn has also participated in national organizations, including serving as president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, which represents more than 55,000 members.
She has also lectured nationally and internationally on health care topics and published many articles as well as participated in disaster planning programs at the Pentagon.
“Health care is changing largely because of technology,” said Kuhn. “For example, doctors and nurses can share information about a patient from dozens of different locations. And, their information is confirmed, which means it can’t be misread. That protects the patient.
“Also, new hospitals are being designed after a lot of research.”
One example at the new Banner Gateway Medical Center is a study that determined that more intensive ceiling lighting helped nurses and physicians read medical information easier.
Also, electrical outlets at the new hospital are waist-high rather than at the traditional lower level, a safety issue that prevents employees from bending.
The future of health care in the Valley?
“It will continue to grow to match the population growth,” answered Kuhn. “Also, services will become more and more specialized.”
Specialized services include heart care, cancer treatment, delivery of multiple births, organ transplants, bone marrow transplants, rehabilitation services and behavioral health care.
What about the growing demand for nurses and doctors in the Valley?
“There will always be a demand, but steps are being taken by Banner Health and others to fill those positions. We’re trying to fill the nurse shortage, for example, by offering nursing classes for 30 students at ASU Polytechnic campus, Chandler-Gilbert Community College and Mesa Community College.”
When she’s not directing a multimillion-dollar health facility, Kuhn enjoys hiking and spending time with her daughters, Stephanie, 16, a student at Mountain View High School in Mesa and Alexis, 9.
• Based in Phoenix, Banner Health is one of the largest, nonprofit health care systems in the country.
• It has 20 facilities in seven states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.
• It employs nearly 25,000, including 17,000 in the Arizona region.
• The company has an annual revenue of about $2.6 billion and assets totalling $3.1 billion.
Family: Daughters, Stephanie, 16 and Alexis, 9
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer of Banner Mesa Medical Center since 2002 and soon will take over as CEO of the new Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert
Business: Banner Mesa Medical Center at 525 at W. Brown Road, Mesa is a 190-bed hospital that is about to close after 44 years. The new, $200 million, 168-bed Banner Gateway Medical Center at the corner of Higley Road and U.S. 60 in Gilbert will open in early fall.
Key Achievements: Earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Arizona; served as president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses; Served as president and CEO of Paradise Valley Hospital from 1995 to 2002; senior administrator at Desert Samaritan Medical Center in Mesa and is about to become CEO of the new Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert. Kuhn also worked as a critical care nurse at the University of California in Los Angeles and has lectured nationally and internationally on health care topics. She has also published many articles about health and hospital care.
Philosophy: Focus on the best patient care. Hire great people — and let them do their jobs.
Information: (480) 834-1211 (Banner Mesa Medical Center) or www.bannerhealth.com