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Hanson to leave Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota for Sanford job in Sioux Falls

President of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota Paul Hanson announced the end of May he will take a new position with Sanford in Sioux Falls after a three-year stint in Bemidji. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – The local health-care system is about to undergo a change in leadership.

Paul Hanson is leaving his position as president of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota to become the president of Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. He will remain in his current role until he assumes his new position this summer.

“I have high expectations for Bemidji,” Hanson told the Pioneer Wednesday afternoon. “I wish this community and our organization (Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota) the best. They both have been so good to me.”

Hanson was named president of North Country Health Services in October 2009, coming to Bemidji from a similar position with Prairie Lakes Healthcare System in Watertown, S.D.

“We were looking for proven leadership in service expansion,” recalled Pete Aube, who then was the chairman of the NCHS board. “I think if you look at what has happened in the last three years, with Sanford’s help as well, we’ve greatly expanded our medical services in Bemidji. It’s exciting.”

A year after he was hired, Sanford Health merged with NCHS and Hanson became the top executive for Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota. That merger followed the 2009 merger between Sanford Health and MeritCare Health System.

Aube, now a Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota board member, said there is “no question” Hanson’s leadership played a strong role in expansions to local medical services, including growing orthopedics and interventional cardiology.

“Leaders are about managing change,” Aube said. “The health care system, like any other industry, undergoes change; it’s a requisite for improvement. Paul is a change leader. He’s a change master.”

Hanson, a 2012 recipient of the American College of Healthcare Executives Senior Health Care Executive Regent’s Award, said he’s always aspired to lead a large tertiary medical center or a small health-care system.

He said Sanford USD Medical Center approaches $700 million in net revenues a year while Sanford Bemidji has about $200 million.

When looking at Sanford USD Medical Center, he said its size, complexities, breadth and depths of services, and location in a competitive market was appealing, he said.

“In that type of environment, some of my skill sets, I believe, will line up pretty well,” he said.

The process to replace Hanson is beginning immediately, according to Sanford Health. The local Sanford board with work with Sanford Health leadership to fill the position as a search committee, to be chaired by local Dr. Rod Will, will consist of physicians, board members, community leaders and Sanford leadership. On-site interviews with finalists are tentatively scheduled for June.

Both Hanson and Aube said they expect strong applicants for the position.

“It’s exciting here,” Aube said. “The service lines that have been created, the service lines that we have planned … Bemidji’s just a great place to live and we have a great team, a great asset here.”