Mark Paulson, MD, served in a management role beginning with the board of North Dakota-based MeritCare shortly before its 2009 merger with Sanford Health.
More than a decade later, as one of the longest-serving members of the current Sanford Health Board of Trustees, he is grateful for the chance to serve.
In fact, he was elected to serve as chairman of the board in 2018.
“Being part of the board has given me the opportunity to see the organization as a whole,” Dr. Paulson told Sanford Health News. “I think that probably opened my eyes more than anything else, just being able to see everything that goes into taking care of the individual patient.”
Dr. Paulson, a family medicine physician from North Dakota, has been caring for Sanford Health patients in the upper Midwest since 1988.
With that, he has seen many changes at Sanford Health from a regional perspective and throughout the area that Sanford serves.
“Unique perspective” serving on board
Dr. Paulson is one of three Sanford physicians – and four physicians in total – currently serving on the Board of Trustees.
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“When I go to board meetings, I almost have to take one hat off and put another on to separate my roles and try to clear my head to start thinking at the corporate level instead of thinking at the patient and room level for exams,” he said.
His mission, philosophy and approach from the beginning has been to bring quality to the health care system, whether it is through financial stability, expansion of services or improvement of care for each individual patient.
“We recently created a board committee with a focus on quality,” explained Dr. Paulson. “We recognize that quality drives patient satisfaction and employee satisfaction. There are so many different aspects.’
Speaking of providing quality care, one of his workplace passions includes providing emergency medical services and quality care in rural and underserved cities and broad spectrum health care throughout the region. In fact, Dr. Paulson spent eight years on the Trauma Advisory Board for the Minnesota Department of Health.
As a board member, he is eager to see how Sanford reimagines rural care to improve access for all patients, regardless of zip code.
While exciting, he admits it’s the tip of the iceberg.
“From electronic video visits, new technologies to monitor patients at home and the capabilities and other things we’re dealing with, it’s all just getting started.”
Additionally, Dr. Paulson is enthusiastic about modern medical technology such as cell biology, CAR T-cell therapy, and mRNA vaccines that are bringing treatments and improving patient care.
Providing and leading rural care
Serving nearly 12,000 patients at Sanford / Perham Health Clinic in Otter Tail County, Dr. Paulson knows rural health.
“When we talk about the nature of rural areas, if you’re providing high-quality health care at the forefront of every city in your footprint, you’re going to do a good job of providing health care in rural areas,” he said. “It’s figuring out the hurdles and challenges of how to do that, for example recruiting talent, finance to develop services, patient referral services.”
“In primary care, I see that,” he continued. “I transfer patients, I work with specialists, I refer patients outside my practice. Primary care provides a really good idea of what that rural talent should be.”
In addition to patient care, Dr. Paulson is no stranger to additional leadership roles. He has served the medical community in various ways over the years.
Outside the clinic
At home, Dr. Paulson’s six children and many grandchildren keep him busy, which ultimately brings him his greatest joy.
“My wife used to tell me, ‘Nobody’s going to remember you because you went to that meeting or didn’t show up perfectly… it’s your kids and your grandkids – they’re going to remember you.’
Dr. Paulson’s term on the board expires at the end of 2022.
“I think a lot of what I wanted to accomplish with the quality committee and the continued growth of the organization has happened,” he said. “I’m leaving the board in a great place because the culture on the board is amazing with high-quality people who have a great vision.”
About the Board of Trustees
Sanford Health’s 13-member Board of Trustees oversees the health system’s governance, guiding the pursuit of Sanford’s mission and providing oversight of the organization’s strategic direction and financial and operational performance.
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Sanford Health trustees are elected by the full board and currently serve up to three three-year terms. The Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board of Trustees is responsible for identifying, evaluating and recommending potential new members based on their qualifications and experience. Trustees represent a wide range of backgrounds, with extensive experience in business and finance, healthcare, technology and the not-for-profit sector.
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