Mark Paulson, M.D., has served in a governance role starting with the North Dakota-based MeritCare board shortly before its merger with Sanford Health in 2009.
More than a decade later, as one of the longest tenured members of the now-Sanford Health Board of Trustees, he’s grateful for the chance to serve.
In fact, he was elected to serve as board chairman in 2018.
“Being on the board has given me an opportunity to see the organization as a whole,” Dr. Paulson told Sanford Health News. “I think that that’s probably opened my eyes more than anything, just being able to see everything that happens in order to bring care to the individual patient.”
Dr. Paulson, a family medicine physician from North Dakota, has cared for Sanford Health patients in the upper Midwest since 1988.
With that, he has seen a lot of change at Sanford Health from a regional perspective and across the entire area Sanford serves.
‘Unique perspective’ serving on the board
Dr. Paulson is one of three Sanford physicians – and four total physicians – 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 hat on to separate my roles and try to clear my head to start thinking on a corporate level rather than thinking on the patient and exam room level,” he said.
His mission, philosophy and approach from the beginning was to bring quality to the health care system, whether that’s through financial stability, expanding services or improving care for each individual patient.
“We have recently started a board committee with a focus on quality,” Dr. Paulson explained. “We recognize that quality promotes patient satisfaction and satisfaction of the employee. There are so many different aspects to it.”
Speaking of providing quality care, one of his passions in the workplace includes bringing emergency medical services and quality care to rural and underserved towns and broad-spectrum health care anywhere in the region. In fact, Dr. Paulson spent eight years serving on the Trauma Advisory Council for the Minnesota Department of Health.
As a member of the board, he’s eager to witness Sanford reimagine rural care to improve access to all patients no matter their zip code.
Though exciting, he admits it’s the tip of the iceberg.
“From electronic video visits, new technologies to monitor patients at home and the abilities and other things that we’re getting into, it’s just beginning.”
Additionally, Dr. Paulson is enthusiastic about modern medical technology like cellular biology, CAR T-Cell therapy and mRNA vaccines bringing cures and advancing care for patients.
Providing and leading rural care
Serving nearly 12,000 patients at the Sanford / Perham Health Clinic in Otter Tail County, Dr. Paulson knows rural health.
“When talking about the nature of rural, if you’re bringing high quality health care to the front step of every town in your footprint, you’re going to do a good job providing rural health care,” he said. “It’s figuring out the roadblocks and the challenges of how to do that, for example, the recruitment of talent, finances to develop services, services to transfer patients.”
“In primary care, I get to see that,” he continued. “I transfer patients, work with specialists, refer patients beyond my practice. Primary care provides a really good view of what that rural talent needs to be.”
Aside from patient care, Dr. Paulson is no stranger to additional leadership roles. He has served the medical community in various ways over the years.
Outside of the clinic
At home, Dr. Paulson’s six children and many grandchildren keep him busy which ultimately brings him the greatest joy.
“My wife would tell me, ‘Nobody’s going to remember you because you went to that meeting or didn’t have perfect attendance … it’s your kids and your grandkids – that’s who will remember you.”
Dr. Paulson’s term on the board wraps up at the end of 2022.
“A lot of what I wanted to accomplish, with the quality committee and continuing to grow the organization, I think has happened,” he said. “I’m leaving the board in a great place because the board culture is amazing with high-quality individuals who have a great vision.”
About the Board of Trustees
The 13-member Sanford Health Board of Trustees oversees governance for the health system, 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 Board of Trustees Nominating and Governance Committee is responsible for identifying, evaluating and recommending potential new members based on their qualifications and experience. Trustees represent a broad range of backgrounds, with extensive experience in business and finance, health care, technology and the nonprofit sector.
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