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Sanford Worthington Medical Center's Olson leaves top post

Lynn Olson, former CEO at Sanford Worthington Medical Center, will begin his new job at Hannibal (Mo.) Regional Hospital, Mo. on Dec. 5.

WORTHINGTON -- Staff at Sanford Worthington Medical Center bade farewell to chief operating officer Lynn Olson on Thursday, marking the end of an almost four-year tenure.

Olson tendered his resignation to Sanford and will be moving into a CEO position for Hannibal, Mo., Regional Hospital.

"Farewell parties are never fun -- they're sad," he said Thursday. "I'll miss the people I've met here."

As the first CEO for the hospital after its purchase in 2008 by Sanford Health, Olson said there were two major milestones for him in during his years at Sanford -- witnessing renovations to the facility and increasing physician recruitment.

"It shows we're busier now (compared) to any other time since I've been here," he said, noting that six new doctors were hired this year. "I feel good about where Worthington is at as a medical community. Anytime you get some new, young providers, they bring energy and new ideas."

Life as a CEO, he said, is comparable to being the head coach of a football team.

"I don't actually get to play the game, but what a CEO should do is assemble a great team," Olson explained. "I hire managers, or in the football world, assistant coaches, develop the ones that are here for them to be a team with better leadership, and develop a game plan. But you have to get the right players. There is no substitution for hiring good people.

"If I've done my job here and assembled a good team, they'll do well after I leave."

Apart from working at Sanford, Olson served as the chairperson for the city's Economic Development Task Force, a community group that met for a year to discuss ideas for job creation and growth. He was also a member of the Worthington Area YMCA board.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for the Y because they put their faith in action," he said.

He gained an appreciation for Worthington -- a city he refers to as one of the cleanest cities he's lived in -- through the lens of a newcomer in 2008. Prior to Worthington, Olson was the chief operating officer at Monticello-Big Lake Hospital.

"When I look at the town here, I notice all kinds of new buildings that have gone up," he said. "Even in the recession and the tough times, Worthington weathered through and prospered. Sometimes I'm not sure if people who've lived here for a long time see the changes quite as vividly as a newcomer (does)."

Looking forward, despite the challenges that come with a new job, he said there is comfort in knowing he will be closer to family. The brighter side of his move to northeast Missouri includes a great job opportunity and a shorter distance that separates him from his son and four grandchildren -- ages 14, 12, 4 and 2 -- who live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"For the younger two, we've been apart most of their lives," he said, with a slight hint of wistfulness in his voice. "They're growing up so fast. The younger two are a bit of a mystery."

With 32 years of administrative experience in the health care field, Olson started his career at a community hospital and never left the field.

"It's one of the few businesses where you can marry the business side with the compassionate side of you and have it work," he said about the path he chose. "Hospitals aren't just about the bottom line, they're about life."

"I leave with some sadness but also with excitement about where I'm going," he said.

Olson hopes to visit Worthington next year once renovations to the hospital are completed, and also to reconnect with his former staff.

"Will Rogers once said that 'you may be on the right track but you'll get run over if you just stand still,"' he added. "That's the way I try to live life -- be grateful for what I have but never get complacent and take it for granted. At this point in life, being close to family is important."