Scripps’ Van Gorder rose through ranks from security guard to CEO

Frontline Leaders Groomed with CEO’s Training at $2.7 Billion San Diego Health Care System

Injured and nearly killed in the line of duty in 1978, Chris Van Gorder was retired from the police force — and ended up working as a security guard at the hospital where he had been rehabilitated.

This month’s Pulse podcast guest, Van Gorder shares how he worked in hospitals and pursued his masters in healthcare administration to rise through the ranks and become chief executive officer of San Diego’s $2.7 billion health care system.

Five times named “one of 100 most influential leaders in health care” by Modern Healthcare, Van Gorder says he enjoys sitting down with the security guards at Scripps and asking, “Which one of you is the next CEO?”


Overseeing 15,000 employees, 2600 physicians, five hospitals, and 30 ambulatory sites in Scripps’ quest to care for a half-million patients each year, Van Gorder says his “best days are those he spends with managers and frontline caregivers in hands-on leadership training.” Van Gorder is said to spend more than 100 hours engaged in these training classes — a vehicle for cultural change he instituted because, he says, “things were in chaos at Scripps” when he first became CEO. Among other innovations his team has implemented: a “no lay off” philosophy and customized life cycle benefits that, for example, enable a phased retirement for those who may want to work less as they age.

Van Gorder Pulse
How did a 2 AM encounter with the CEO at his first hospital job shape his management philosophy? Listen here and learn: Scripps’ Van Gorder Rose Through Ranks from Security Guard to CEO (The Pulse audio)

To listen to previous episodes of the Pulse, visit our archives page on UCTV’s Career Channel.

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