Becoming president and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System for northwestern Wisconsin “was never part of the master plan” for Dr. Randall Linton.
But, 15 years ago, the opportunity for Linton, a pediatrician, to lead the health system he had been part of for more than 20 years arose, and he took it while continuing to care for patients.
The 64-year-old Linton, who grew up on a wheat farm in western Nebraska, retires today after nearly 36 years of service.
“This was a great opportunity to come to Eau Claire, but it’s time,” said Linton, who, with his wife, Jane, plans to continue to call the Chippewa Valley home.
Those who have worked with Linton over the years said that while he leaves big shoes to fill, they all knew this day would come.
“It’s a huge loss; it’s sad,” said Pam White, chief nursing officer for Mayo Clinic Health System’s northwestern region. “He has been a tremendous leader.”
Dr. Bill Rupp, the man Linton succeeded in 2002, couldn’t agree more.
“I think Randy did a superb job of bringing in new resources to the community, new services to the community, working with Mayo. He is just a great leader.”
Rupp was president and CEO for 10 years before Linton, then chief of staff, was named to the post.
“One of the reasons for me to move on was he was ready to fly, and I didn’t want him to fly someplace else,” Rupp said, chuckling. “I’m so proud of him. It’s a great honor to leave a job to someone who did it better than you did.”
Linton joined Midelfort Clinic as a pediatrician, a specialty he chose because he not only liked working with children, but he enjoyed working with their families.
“One of the great things about being a pediatrician is you are able to follow them over their lives,” he said.
“This was a wonderful place to practice,” said Linton, who didn’t track the number of children he treated over the years. However, he has seen the children of former child patients, and he treated some of the employees at Mayo Clinic Health System in their youth. “I guess I’ve been here awhile,” he said, laughing.
He was on the board of Midelfort Clinic when it, along with Luther Hospital, joined with Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic in 1992.
“We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes,” he said, including advancements in technology and available therapies, the construction of a five-story, $118 million addition to the Mayo Clinic Health System campus in Eau Claire and the implementation of electronic medical records.
Under Linton’s tenure as president and CEO, he served as a champion of quality improvement initiatives, along with a deep commitment to creating an integrated health care system. Linton’s efforts ushered in the implementation of the Mayo Model of Community Care to improve quality and cost-effectiveness of community-based care.
He was an ardent supporter of the Hometown Health Grant Program, which supports innovative efforts to improve the health of community, along with developing a partnership with the Eau Claire YMCA for initiatives, such as Camp Wabi, a program designed for teens who struggle with weight issues.
He helped establish the new Mayo Clinic Family Medicine Residency Program to train primary care physicians in northwestern Wisconsin, with the first class of five residents to begin their residency this summer in Eau Claire.
Over the decades, Linton was a frequent leader and volunteer for numerous community causes, including United Way, Bolton Refuge House, Downtown Eau Claire Inc., Eau Claire YMCA, Eau Claire Children’s Museum and the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always looked forward to coming to work,” Linton said. “I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve done … and to work with the talented people here has been a real privilege.”
White, who has known Linton for years, feels the same way about him. In addition to working together, Linton saw her children occasionally.
“There are so many things that he has to be proud of,” she said. “His heart is as a pediatrician, and he was always thinking of the patient first.”
That said, White described Linton as “an extremely humble leader,” one she has never heard take credit for something individually. “It’s never about him,” she said.
Nominated by his peers, Linton recently was honored with the Mayo Clinic Diamond Quality Fellow Lifetime Achievement Award at Mayo Clinic’s annual Quality Conference. Award recipients demonstrate a long-standing commitment to quality improvement.
Now that he’s retiring, Linton is looking forward to spending time with his wife, their son and two daughters and their two grandchildren; and to woodworking.
Linton’s successor is Dr. Rick Helmers, who will hold the title of regional vice president of the northwestern Wisconsin region, to better align with other similar job titles and organizational structures within Mayo Clinic.
“Mayo Clinic Health System is very blessed to have strong leaders to move it forward,” Linton said.
But the system was also blessed to have Linton, White said. “Mayo Clinic Health System is better because of him.”
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