“In every community I served, I began my tenure with concentrated efforts in reaching out to the medical staff both on an individual and organizational level. I began with the scheduling of one-on-one meetings with physicians in their offices to thank them for their past support of the hospital as well as to ask for input as to how the hospital might provide better quality of care and help make it easier and more enjoyable for their personal practice,” says Don Beeler ’73 LFACHE, who retired in 2010 as Regional President and CEO of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health Care. It’s a strategy that spelled success throughout his 34-year career with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Health System(s) which in 1999 merged their hospital systems to establish CHRISTUS Health.
Don’s first exposure to health care occurred during his training and subsequent service as a field medic with the U.S. Army Reserve. When a good friend entered the Trinity HCAD program, Don became interested in health care administration as a career and Trinity as a great place to continue his formal training for the field.
After completing an administrative residency at Santa Rosa Hospital, Don was named Assistant Administrator in 1973. In 1981, he became the first employee of the former Incarnate Word Health Services, serving as Executive Vice President until 1988. During a four-year hiatus from health care, Don discovered that “one of my career goals still consisted of becoming a hospital CEO.” He subsequently joined St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont as COO before moving to St. Michael Health System in Texarkana in 1995, where he served as President/CEO until returning to San Antonio to what had become CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System to serve as Regional President/CEO until his retirement in 2010.
Although he says the career challenges he faced often centered around medical staff issues and relations, the greatest challenge—and also his most significant achievement —involved the financial turnaround of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa. When he returned to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa, the region was experiencing considerable turnover in senior leadership. Some people were led to believe that Santa Rosa was nearing the end of its 135 year old mission, a view Don did not share. Through hard work, initiating needed changes, and visionary leadership, Don and his team along with the support of associates, medical staff, volunteers, and sister sponsors enacted a remarkable financial turnaround. This led to the expansion of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa (CSR) through the acquisition of McKenna Hospital in New Braunfels and the building of a new hospital in Westover Hills in a part of San Antonio that had previously not been served by an acute care hospital. Over the same period, CSR received recognition by HealthGrades as being in the top 5% of U.S. hospitals for clinical excellence as well as marked improvements and outcomes in patient and associate satisfaction.
A stand out in the industry, Don is a two-time recipient of the prestigious ACHE Senior Level Healthcare Executive Regent’s Award. He also received the Earl M. Collier Award for Distinguished Healthcare Administration, the highest award presented by the Texas Hospital Association, as well as the first STAR Award for outstanding leadership for HOSPAC, among other honors. While Don sees the health care industry becoming “much more financially focused and moving to a much more corporate model in terms of operations," he advises administrators and practitioners to “always remember, that health care is about serving others, whether they are patients, physicians, associates, peers or volunteers. And in the end, you will be judged by how well you served, not just your successes.”
In retirement, Don enjoys his long standing commitment to Not-For-Profit organizations and currently serves on four boards as well as the advisory boards for both the Trinity HCAD program and the newly established HCA program at the University of the Incarnate Word. He also enjoys spending time with family and friends, snow skiing as often as possible, creating memories with his “very special” grandsons, ages 2 and 4, and looks forward to the day when his “wonderful wife of 47 years” will join him in retirement.