The MHA announced the winners of its 2022 Healthcare Leadership Award June 30 during its Annual Membership Meeting. Each year, the MHA recognizes outstanding individuals who have provided exceptional leadership to healthcare organizations and to the health and well-being of the community. The 2022 recipients are Charles “Chuck” Nelson, chief operations officer, Marshfield Michigan, and chief administrative officer, Marshfield Medical Center – Dickinson, Iron Mountain; and Edwin A. Ness, president and CEO, Munson Healthcare, Traverse City. The MHA will donate $1,000 on behalf of each award winner to the charity of their choice. These funds were provided to the MHA by the family of former MHA President H. Allen Barth.
When Nelson became CEO of the former Dickinson County Healthcare System in October 2019, the organization was near bankruptcy. He focused on helping staff and the community envision the system as a significant player in the future of Dickinson County and turning the financially challenged organization around.
Over the next 30 months, Nelson significantly improved income and balance sheet performance and implemented operational improvements, leading to approval of a $17 million loan through the USDA rural development program — assistance that had previously been denied. The funding was used to upgrade technology and hire 16 new physicians.
Nelson led through the pandemic by coordinating contingency plans, securing vaccines, improving access to testing, strengthening telehealth services and expanding inpatient capacity. He shares with other organizations the lessons learned through a malware attack that took the health system offline for nearly six weeks, helping them better manage cyber risk. A project focused on improving patient and employee engagement led to an improved rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Nelson also led through the system’s affiliation with Marshfield Clinic Health System to improve access and increase healthcare innovation for area residents.
Nelson has asked that the $1,000 monetary portion of the award go to Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly in Hancock, MI.
Ness took the reins at Munson Healthcare in 2010 and led the effort to integrate nine community hospitals in the northwest lower peninsula, then worked to streamline the organization’s decision-making process. He and board leadership generated a new governance structure, achieving the benefits of a single board while maintaining the voice of each local community. His leadership in developing collaborative partnerships with other healthcare systems and the integration of multiple specialty services in Traverse City provided both quality local care and regional access to sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities. During the pandemic, Ness led efforts to coordinate response plans with local health departments and others, ensuring broad access to vaccinations.
Ness is a servant leader who focuses on community needs and supporting and building his team, and his integrity and values emerge through all his interactions. He leads change by including those impacted by potential actions, and he fosters strong engagement of board members.
Ness’ leadership skills have benefited the boards many organizations. He served 12 years on the MHA board and was board chair in the 2020-2021 program year as hospitals faced the challenges of the pandemic.
At Ness’ request, the $1,000 monetary portion of the award will go to the Chill Out for Winter Safety program, which teaches children to be smart and safe while having fun.
The MHA congratulates the winners of the 2022 MHA Healthcare Leadership Award.