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MSHA CEO Vonderfecht reflects on career

By Preston Ayres, payres@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 27 2013 12:18:50 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 27 2013 09:15:41 PM CST

Major changes are coming for one of the region's largest employers -- longtime MSHA CEO Dennis Vonderfecht plans to retire.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

The end of 2013 will bring the end of an almost unheard-of career.

Dennis Vonderfecht will retire from Mountain States Health Alliance after 24 years in December.

Statistics show the majority of hospital CEO's stay on a job roughly five years; less than four percent have a tenure as long as Vonderfecht. "The main reason I've been here 24 years is there was always a challenge and a great team to take on those challenges and turn them into opportunities," Vonderfecht said about his career at MSHA.

He led the formation of the company in 1998 when Johnson City Medical Center bought six hospitals from Columbia HCA. There are now 13 hospitals, a retail pharmacy chain, urgent care clinics, and an insurance company under the MSHA umbrella.

A major milestone came in 2009 with the opening of Niswonger Children's Hospital. “Our mission is to provide new services where they are not being met,” said Vonderfecht, "and that was a need that wasn't being met."

He’s also proud of launching the region's first air ambulance, Wings Air Rescue.

Mountain States is now one of the region's largest employers with over 10,000 team members. "All of us working together, we've been able to get a lot done,” says Vonderfecht. “I think if we work even closer together in the future even more can be accomplished."

Last summer Mountain States announced a major restructuring plan to save $70 million, including eliminating more than 100 jobs.

Vonderfecht says the change was necessary for future success. "Whoever the new leader is that comes into this organization, I believe it is well positioned for the future,” says Vonderfecht.

He told us he's walking away from the job to spend more time with his family, especially his two grandchildren.

A search committee has been working on finding his replacement for two years. The goal is to have a replacement named by July and on the job to work alongside Vonderfecht starting in October.