New El Camino CEO brings 'entrepreneurial spirit'


The El Camino Healthcare District named Dan Woods its new CEO in June. The district includes the 443-bed El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and a satellite facility in Los Gatos.

Woods, who officially started work Aug. 30, arrives from Georgia. He previously served as president and CEO of WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center in Marietta, Ga., where he oversaw a staff of more than 1,100 physicians and 4,700 employees. Prior to that, he held key administrative positions at Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System.

The Town Crier met with Woods for an informal chat Thursday. A portion of the interview follows.


Q: What attracted you to El Camino Hospital?

A: Certainly the area. In Chicago, you’re filling up your tank at the gas station and it’s minus 20 or minus 30 degrees, or you’re walking down the streets of Chicago and the back of your head is just freezing. So that’s why I moved to Atlanta.

(I thought El Camino would be) a wonderful opportunity – I love to grow things, I have a little bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s fiscally sound, they’re one of the top (rated) 100 hospitals. There are a lot of quality metrics, so I jumped at the opportunity.


Q: What kinds of qualities do you bring to the table at El Camino?

A: I have pretty strong values with regards to integrity, passion, if you will, about quality of patient care experience. Those are some of the things I’ve consistently delivered. And building a team. You get this family connection because you spend so much time together, and that’s what it’s about – not only delivering the right care for patients, but you’re doing it in a way that you’re caring for each other as well.


Q: How do you plan on growing and retaining top talent at El Camino?

A: I’d love to create more of a trust environment within the organization. They like to know who they’re working with and for as opposed to just the pure dollar. I think the pure dollar amount is important to be able to live, but the satisfaction of the job comes back to: Do you feel supported? Do you have a good working environment? And do you trust the people you’re working with? My previous life, that’s what we were focused on … developing trust within the culture.


Q: What’s on your to-do list for the first year?

A: How are we going to continue to deliver value based on cost, quality and … access. I would love for us to have a better physician alignment, especially if we’re taking a look at growing into Los Gatos and Santa Teresa. You take a look at other hospitals around the area, whether Stanford or UCSF, Sutter, Kaiser, they all have physician integration – that’s something we don’t have. Sutter has a large physician foundation that aligns with their health system, Stanford, all the other hospital systems around us have them. We do not. That’s something we have to take a look at.


Q: El Camino is building all of these new facilities. Is that exciting for you?

(Note: The hospital’s facilities expansion plan includes 300 additional stalls at the North Drive garage, construction of a behavioral health building and a medical office building, and demolition of the old main hospital building.)

A: That was one of the other things that attracted me – the level of reinvestment into the infrastructure in the organization. Just showing that the organization is reinvesting in the infrastructure. Those are large commitments and very nice for the community.


Q: What’s your management style?

A: I call it “loose-tight-loose.” And so you know, I’ll sit down and establish, What is your goal for the next year? Are you on a track? If they start to fall off-track, then it’s tight. Then I’ll manage them very tightly until that’s fixed. And then you’re off going again.

In that tight phase, I don’t carry a stick, I carry a ‘What’s the problem? How are we going to fix this together?’ And really focus on what’s the right thing to do for the patient.


Q: How did you fall into this line of work?

A: I started in health care with really a joint venture between Baxter and the University of Chicago Medical Center. And the joint venture became so successful, they asked me to run the joint venture, and in doing so the stipulation was I needed to become a University of Chicago Medical Center employee. I never went back. I went into the hospital, they were doing a lot of entrepreneurial ventures and I went from there to Northwestern to Atlanta. And I never looked back. It just stuck.

You might say back in the day when I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. (But) I didn’t grow up to be able to afford to go to medical school.

– Bruce Barton and Grace Hase contributed to this report

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