Gundersen Health System names new CEO

Dr. Scott Rathgaber will take over as CEO sometime this fall

The search for a new chief executive officer at Gundersen Health System is over as the Board of Trustees announced Monday a new CEO.

Dr. Scott Rathgaber will be taking over for long-time CEO Jeff Thompson sometime this fall.

Rathgaber has been with Gundersen Health System for 17 years now, specifically caring for patients in gastroenterology. But his path as a doctor has led to new opportunities and he is ready for the next chapter in his career.

“I am humbled by this opportunity and excited about getting to work in my new role,” said Rathgaber.

But being the CEO of a hospital that employs nearly 7,000 people wasn’t necessarily the route he thought he would take in life.

After graduating from Indiana University Medical Center, Rathgaber planned to practice medicine until he retired.

“To see patient’s one person at a time and improve their care and lives. For the next 30 years, I thought that was what I was going to do,” said Rathgaber.

However, as his career grew at Gundersen, more leadership opportunities presented themselves.

“In addition to serving as the section chief of Gastroenterology Department from 2005-2011 and on the Board of Governors from 2010-2012,” said Brad Sturm, chairman of Gundersen Board of Trustees.

“I started to see well I could spend 30 years taking care of one person at a time. But if I did my leadership roles well, I could affect other people to help patients and care for the community and I could really magnify the effect I would have,” said Rathgaber.

Rathgaber said one thing lead to another, and now he’s about to take on one of the biggest opportunities of his career.

“It would be foolish not to have some nerves. It’s a big job and I take the responsibility seriously,” said Rathgaber.

But Rathgaber said he is ready to take that next step at Gundersen because his first step 17 years ago has been nothing but success.

“This was a very desirable place when I interviewed and never had a doubt since,” said Rathgaber.

Rathgaber said his first priority is to do a lot of listening rather than acting. He said with nearly 7,000 employees, there are a lot of great ideas floating around. So he plans to visit with employees at Gundersen here in La Crosse, as well as other regions, to make sure everyone has a say in the future of the organization.

Rathgaber will officially take over the CEO position in September, while continuing to see patients.

In the meantime, current CEO Jeff Thompson will help transition Rathgaber  into the new position as head of the hospital.