CMC President Doran retires after 44 years in medical field

A career in the medical field that began after being interviewed and hired for a job while riding in the back seat of a car will come to a close.

Dennis Doran, who has been president of Cambridge Medical Center (CMC) since April 25, 2000, will retire on May 5. He has spent 44 years in the medical field.

Cambridge Medical Center President Dennis Doran will retire May 5 after 13 years in the position. Photo by Rachel Kytonen
Cambridge Medical Center President Dennis Doran will retire May 5 after 13 years in the position. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Doran came to Cambridge from Danville, Ill., where he spent 13 years as president/CEO at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center. Prior to his position at Provena, he was administrator/senior vice president of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tuscon, Ariz.

“Dennis Doran is a true original,” said Kenneth Paulus, president and CEO of Allina Health. “He transcends traditional health care leadership by developing lifelong relationships with caregivers, patients and staff. To say he will be missed is an incredible understatement. He is amongst the best leaders I have had the pleasure to work with. Losing him to retirement is great for Dennis and his family and is certainly well deserved, but is less than ideal for Allina, the health care industry, the Cambridge community and the fish in the surrounding lakes.”

Out of all the places he worked, Doran enjoyed CMC the most.

“Every year, every day, coming to Cambridge Medical Center has been a highlight for me,” Doran said. “People in this organization, as well as in the community, have been awesome. Allina Health is an awesome organization and it fits with my philosophy, which has always been treating people respectfully, listening to them and a dedication to improving the health of the community and providing services the community needs.”

Doran’s past experience also includes president/CEO of St. John’s Hospital in Fargo, N.D., and president/CEO of St. Ansgar Hospital in Moorhead, Minn. Prior to that, he was president/CEO of St. Francis Medical Center in Breckenridge, Minn.

“One of the first things that come to mind when thinking of Dennis is values, especially integrity,” said Jon Ward, Cambridge Clinical director. “Dennis has been a great mentor to many at Cambridge. The Medical Center had a great financial turn-around and maybe even more importantly, the employee engagement scores went from not very good to excellent. He is a man of action with a can- and will-do attitude.”

Doran reminisced about how his career began a little unconventionally.

“I was getting a ride home to Greenbush, Minn., with a friend of mine and his mother, and it was mentioned his mother was looking for a credit manager at St. Ansgar Hospital,” Doran explained. “Well, I ended up interviewing for the job while riding in the back seat of the car and I said I’d do it for one year. I ended up staying at St. Ansgar’s and moving up in the ranks while I took night classes to pursue my master’s degree.”

Doran received his master’s degree in business administration from Moorhead State University and his undergraduate degree business administration from St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minn.

Doran, who started working when he was 21, said when he began working he set out two goals for himself: retire when he was 65 and put a minimum of $12.50 per pay period into a retirement fund.

“Well, I turned 65 last year and I’ve been at Cambridge Medical Center for 13 years, and I don’t really like to stay in one spot for more than 10 to 12 years,” Doran said. “After that time, I think you need someone to look at things with fresh eyes and a new perspective. I think right now is the perfect time for me to retire. I’m going to take the next six to eight months off and look at my life and figure out a plan for the next five years. I’m a person who always needs to have a purpose in life and look at ways to improve society and make this a better place to live.”

Doran has much faith in his successor, Gary Shaw, who will begin as president of CMC on May 6. Shaw most recently was the administrator of the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Doran will spend time with Shaw in his new position until June 3.

“Gary has a got a great background with over 25 years of health care leadership experience,” Doran said. “He’s an outdoor guy, rural guy and is a people person. He’s got great skills and will integrate in the community and live here. He will be a good fit for the community.”

Doran takes pride in the fact that while at CMC, it has expanded both primary care and multi-specialty care across the organization through the recruitment of physicians. In the 13 years Doran has been at CMC, it has hired 80 physicians.

“We have added a lot of services through the years, such as we are a 24/7 hospital, we have a sleep clinic, INR clinic and offer pulmonary rehab, cardiac rehab, cardiology, infusion therapy and more,” Doran said. “I’m truly proud of everyone who works at Cambridge Medical Center and really proud of this organization as a whole.”

Doran’s colleagues hold him in the highest regard.

“When you work for an organization, you hear and read about the values of that organization,” said Debra Torkildson, Doran’s executive assistant at CMC. “But reading words on a piece of paper stating the values of Allina are trust, integrity, respect, etc. in itself doesn’t mean a lot. What means a lot is seeing a leader model those values. I feel very fortunate that I worked for Dennis, who demonstrated those values day in and day out. There was never any doubt in my mind that the actions Dennis took were honest and built on a foundation of integrity. I never once had to go home thinking maybe some action taken or path we were going down wasn’t quite right. That’s a great way to work and live and I thank Dennis for giving me that peace of mind. Besides that, Dennis is easy to talk to and is interested in people. When Dennis had a conversation with me, I knew he was listening and not just trying to make small talk.”

Those close to Doran realized how much he cared for CMC, as well as the community.

“As a community, Cambridge is very fortunate to have had Mr. Doran choose us as the last stop in his distinguished career,” said Dr. Charlie Phillips, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Cambridge Medical Center. “He provided leadership that was sorely needed here in Cambridge at the time of his arrival. He renewed the energy of this place by getting to know both the employees and the community. He cared deeply about the people here and knew every employee by their first name and most of their families as well. This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because someone cares enough to ask and remember – a quality sometimes not seen in large corporate leadership these days. Having grown up in a very small town in northern Minnesota, he knew and understood how important the link was between the community and the medical center, and he did all he could to foster that relationship. Most importantly, he never made a decision that didn’t put our patients first. We will miss him but look forward to Mr. Shaw’s arrival. We wish Dennis many years of this same success now pursuing his other great passions. If he can shoot a mallard or catch a walleye as well as he ran this place, I suggest the wild game in northern Minnesota be very careful.”

Doran will miss the people at CMC the most.

“Most Fridays, I would do my walk-around and visit with the employees, and I know about 90 percent of the people here on a first name basis,” Doran said. “I know about their families and why they came here. I feel my employees were able to relate to me and offer suggestions, and I would always get back to them. I’ve learned that you can really learn from people if you take the time to listen. Cambridge Medical Center has a great staff, from the physicians, to the therapists, to the nurses. If you’ve had care here, you know we take care of our patients. It truly has been the best place to work.”

During his retirement, Doran looks forward to spending more time with his family and grandchildren, hunting, fishing, golfing, traveling and farming on 120 acres in northern Minnesota.

“I have 120 acres up north for hunting, but I also have crops including corns, beans, sugar beets, rutabagas and pumpkins,” Doran said. “When you grow up in a town such as Greenbush with a population of about 800, you worked on a farm during the summer.”

Doran said he is comfortable with his decision to retire and looks forward to beginning the next chapter in his life.

“My own wish was that I determine when I retire, and I was able to do that,” Doran said. “I truly feel you should live every day like it’s your last, enjoy each other and the people around you.”