Meet the President: New Munson Medical Center leader on what drew him to the job and what he brings to the table

Matt Wille was named the new president and CEO of Munson Medical Center in September, replacing the role held by Al Pilong, who left for a position at a Virginia health system. It’s a big job by any measure – but one Wille says he’s qualified and prepared to handle. He’ll work alongside Munson Healthcare CEO Ed Ness to lead the institution.

Wille

Wille had previously served as vice president of operations at Allina United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Prior to that he was CEO of Dallas County Hospital in Perry, Iowa and vice president of MercyOne in Des Moines. He holds a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree from Northwestern University, a Master of Healthcare Administration degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics degree from the University of Iowa.

Now he will lead the 4,800 individuals working at Munson in Traverse City. The TCBN caught up with him three weeks into his new job.

TCBN: How did you come to be hired? How did you first hear of the opening?

Back in the spring a former boss of mine was made aware (of the position) and he was really complimentary of northern Michigan and of the opportunity. So I started having conversations with the local leadership and meeting staff. It’s just been great from a personal standpoint and a professional one. I love the outdoors – I come from Minneapolis – and I also have a background in complex tertiary facilities like this. My wife and I are looking for a home with our young son, and we want to establish roots and become active in the community.

What were the big draws to the job?

One of the big draws was so much emphasis on safety within the hospital and the whole Munson system. It’s actually one of the things that makes Munson distinct; a lot of organizations don’t put that much emphasis on that. Safety comes up in every single meeting. Every morning at 9:15 all the department leaders come together for a report-out, and there’s the same process at every single Munson (affiliated) hospital. Then we have a system call at 9:45 where we share any concerns and best practices. That’s different than a lot of places. And operationally the foundation here is very strong. What’s nice about it is we have clarity: The patient is at the center. And it’s also a great place for our staff to work.

What did you tell them in your interviews that you would bring to Munson?

I shared what I hope I can bring – which is a varied background, always in the Midwest – but I’ve worked in urban environments, rural environments … at big and small facilities. I’ve been responsible for inpatient and outpatient. I have a diverse background interacting with the evolution of healthcare and I like to instill a sense of culture and ownership and develop a great leadership team. I let them be kind of owners of their work and problem solvers … hoping to do build up and culture …

So much is changing so quickly in healthcare.

Yes, and the rapid changes here are not unique to northern Michigan. So much is changing about financing and how we get reimbursed; the level of deductibles that are burdening our patients. So we have to work on prevention and help them avoid acute care that’s more costly. And insurers are changing their policies more quickly with limited notifications to patients and health providers.

Any thoughts on the opioid crisis and Munson’s role, recognizing you’ve only been here a short time?

I know Munson as a system and as a medical center recognizes it’s a public health crisis, and Munson is working with community leaders to solve it. Again, it’s not unique to here. We are fortunate that a few grants were made available to Munson, and we’re fortunate that others in medical treatment and counseling also see this as a crisis.

You stepped in shortly after a very tumultuous period with the nurses negotiating for a union contract. How do you view that?

I’ve worked in an organization with unions before, and I think the main thing to highlight is that we’re a magnet hospital with high quality nursing. Nurses have a right to unionize and we respect that right. My job is to make sure they have a great work environment here. We do an engagement survey with staff and I see we’re improving year over year.

You have an ambitious growth plan here on the physical campus. Some work has been done recently with more to come.

Yes. We have a master facilities plan that was completed recently, and one thing that’s really exciting is on Sixth Street. Expansion will come in a couple phases: First, we are expanding the number of operating rooms, adding four more. And we’re increasing and enlarging the central processing area, which will make it easier for physicians (for sterilization, etc.) We’re very tight for space right now and this will get them quicker into surgeries. And part of that is to also have better waiting rooms. And once that’s complete, phase two will have a family birthing and children’s center for (the neonatal intensive care unit) and birthing. So it will be five years for all of that expansion.

So you’ve only been here a few weeks but how are you getting settled at home?

When we arrived we had a week and a half off, when we were just being tourists, visiting restaurants and the (Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore) dunes. We’re renting a house right now and we’re in the process of looking around. We’ve found the people here very welcoming and very friendly. It’s honestly been seamless and it feels like a natural fit. I’m very grateful and now I’m excited to work to keep putting the patient first, focus on safety, recruit new physicians, bring new technology into the area, and more.

 

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