The Future's Looking Bright

New President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Knox brings enthusiasm, deep experience improving healthcare programs, and fresh ideas that will help enhance patient care and expand hospital programs.

A strategic plan is a blueprint for the future of an organization. Developing the document allows hospital leadership to evaluate where they are, where they want to be, and how to get there.

MCMC’s strategic plan is scheduled to be released in February.

“It’s really the roadmap for success,” Knox said. “It aligns staff with the hospital’s mission of promoting wellness, health and healing throughout the community.”

As part of that mission, Knox has worked hard to encourage a culture of open communication at the hospital. He communicates everything to the board and staff — the good and the bad. In fact, you can often find him rounding with staff and exchanging information.

“They seem very pleased when they see the CEO walking the deck,” he said. “I believe in being approachable. That’s my mantra: Be approachable.”

Rob Carnahan, a member of the MCMC Board of Trustees and the Health Foundation Board of Directors, agrees. The board interviewed multiple candidates, but Knox was the right man for the job, he said.

“He works as a team player and collaborator,” Carnahan said. “I’m convinced we made the right choice and we’re moving in the direction that will impact the community positively for years to come.”

The value of teamwork was instilled in Knox from an early age. Thanks to a football scholarship, Knox was able to attend Duke University.

He started his freshman year as a middle linebacker, but after an injury his junior year he finished his football career as an offensive guard.

To stay in shape during the off-season, Knox also threw the shotput and discus, and was a catcher on the baseball team.

“Baseball is my one true love,” he said. “As you can imagine, teamwork has really been instilled in me. My approach to management is like a coach. It’s my job to field the best team and give them the best tools so we can win. It’s teamwork. It’s all I’ve known.”

At MCMC, the biggest victories of 2017 were financial. When Knox arrived in May 2017, the hospital was spending $8 million more than it brought in.

Thanks to a number of tough decisions, including raising healthcare costs for employees and an early retirement incentive, by the end of 2018 the hospital is predicting a significant turnaround.

The turnaround in hospital finances should enable the hospital to buck national trends and expand services. The hospital has a network of specialty care providers that many community hospitals would envy, Knox said. The real deficit is in primary care providers.

“We plan to develop on-demand care,” he said. “That aligns nicely with my background. I started an urgent care company in Los Angeles. No one in the Gorge should have to wait three months or six months for an appointment with a primary care provider.”

Despite the enviable network of specialty providers at MCMC, Knox will soon fly back to Los Angeles for surgery. His football days came back to haunt him, and he needs a total hip replacement to enjoy the outdoor recreation for which the Gorge is known.

Knox believes in MCMC’s orthopedics team, but they do not perform the anterior total hip procedure and he did not want to play favorites with medical staff.

He also did not want a repeat of his last in-house surgery.

“I ran a sports medicine hospital where I had 16 orthopedic surgeons, “he said. “One of them did my arthroscopy. They put pink granny panties on me as a joke.”

Despite missing outdoor recreation, Knox loves life in the Gorge. At his former home in Los Angeles, his commute was at least two hours each way. These days, his commute is just a few minutes.

“I get my life back,” he said. “I live by the river, right near the dam. It’s just a beautiful, tranquil area compared to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. That to me is the best part.

” His wife, a healthcare executive in Los Angeles, is hoping to join him soon in The Dalles. The two have four children and five grandchildren, including a son in the U.S. Navy. A former deputy director of the drone program in Bahrain, he was recently promoted to the Navy’s legislative liaison to Congress — the same position once held by Chief of Staff John Kelly for the U.S. Army.

Knox is working hard to integrate himself into the Gorge. He has been a member of Rotary International for27 years and became a member of The Dalles Rotary Club soon after moving to Oregon.

He also attends weekly meetings at The Dalles Chamber of Commerce, Government Affairs, and hosts community leadership luncheons for local political and business leaders.

“We have to demonstrate value to the community,” Knox said. “We want every patient to say, ‘I feel safe, I feel cared for.’ That’s our ultimate goal.”

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Strategic Plan to Guide MCMC Into the Future

Mid-Columbia Medical Center’s strategic plan is scheduled to be released February 2018. The three-year plan will establish the direction of MCMC and help guide decision-making in areas such as patient safety, patient satisfaction, recruitment and growth, said MCMC President & CEO Dennis Knox. Patient safety is, and will remain, the highest priority, he said. The strategic plan, which is being developed by Knox and the executive leadership team with the MCMC Board of Trustees, will be available on MCMC’s website.