James Koerper, the former president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph's Medical Center who died Tuesday in Michigan, was remembered by one former co-worker here as a quiet, analytical man.
"He was a hard worker," said Bonnie Groneberg, vice president for patient services at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. Groneberg worked with Koerper from late 1987 until 1989.
"I think I learned a number of things from him, one being how to look at all the aspects of how to solve a problem. That was really a good experience for someone new to the job," Groneberg said.
Koerper, who died at 52, had served as president and CEO at Holy Cross Hospital in Detroit since 1990.
After various administrative positions in North Dakota, Koerper came to St. Joseph's Medical Center in 1977 as an associate administrator. He oversaw $1.5 million in building projects and helped improve operations and financial performance in several departments.
After serving four months as acting director in 1979, Koerper was named permanent CEO, a post he held until 1989.
While CEO of St. Joseph's Medical Center, Koerper was part of several major projects. Groneberg pointed to $20 million in renovations to the physical plant and the development of full-range mental health services.
"Certainly I think he, with others like Sister Vivian Arts, did leave an impression on the hospital," Groneberg said. "It was risky business to add lots of building. He and others took a big risk. Adding a psychiatric program in a community our size is also a risk-taking venture."
During Koerper's tenure as president and CEO, 28 physicians were hired at St. Joseph's Medical Center and he introduced the position of medical director.
He also served as treasurer and on the board of directors for the Central Minnesota Health Care Alliance, an association of three hospitals and 180 physicians established to negotiate managed care contracts and develop clinical links on a regional basis.
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