BY CINDA KLICKNA
E.J. Kuiper, the Central Illinois division director for HSHS, has worked in Springfield for the past five years, but will soon be taking on a new role with the upcoming departure of Charles Lucore, the CEO of St. John’s Hospital.
Kuiper, age 50, grew up in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He worked as a physical therapist in Florida before coming to Springfield five years ago after being recruited by HSHS as Central Illinois division director. HSHS is a network of hospitals that include St. John’s (Springfield), St. Mary’s (Decatur), Good Shepherd (Shelbyville) and St. Francis (Litchfield), as well as the College of Nursing at St. John’s.
As division director, Kuiper receives reports from all the CEOs of the various hospitals. For the near future, Kuiper will be doing double duty as both division director and CEO of St. John’s due to the resignation of Charles Lucore. Earlier this month, Lucore announced he would be taking a position with St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York.
The division director’s main responsibility is working on regional strategies and capital planning for all the hospitals in the area network. The CEO serves at a local hospital with the key role of interaction with the medical staff and the community.
Kuiper says he wants to “build on the good things at St. John’s.” When asked for examples, he says, “St. John’s provides very high-quality service and a good patient experiences. We have a Level I Trauma unit, Level II pediatric trauma care unit, a new building that will be geared for women and children and a neonatal unit that will be remodeled.”
Levels I – V are the designations given to trauma care centers, with Level I being the highest rating. St. John’s pediatric care trauma unit is the only Level II in the region.
Kuiper was raised in Amsterdam. His initials stand for Evert Jan; in the Netherlands, the oldest son is given the first name of his paternal grandfather and the middle name of his maternal grandfather. In 1991, he earned a bachelor’s in physical therapy from the Academy for Physical Therapy in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. He came to the United States and settled in Ft. Myers, Florida, as a clinician at a for-profit healthcare system. He earned his master’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers in 2003 and his doctorate in physical therapy from the University of St. Augustine in 2004.
His career led to a position in Alton, Illinois, with the Franciscan Sisters Catholic Healthcare system and then to Springfield for a position with HSHS in 2013.
Kuiper says, “Springfield has a lot of medical facilities, and strengthening the relationship with the others will be a goal.” With regards to SIU, Springfield Clinic, HSHS, St. John’s and Memorial, Kuiper says, “Partnering with the leaders of the various facilities is happening and can be enhanced.”
Kuiper will move into offices in the administrative areas at St. John’s from the division office on the St. John’s campus. “I look forward to spending time at the hospital,” Kuiper says. He wants to enhance the relationships with the medical staff – doctors, nurses, and practitioners, and work on projects that strengthen the employees. In addition Kuiper says, the College of Nursing “is an important part of our mission.”
When asked what Kuiper sees as the main difference between health care in the Netherlands and the United States, he explains, “Holland has universal health care, meaning that all Dutch citizens have basic health care coverage. Based on levels of income, people then can buy even more coverage beyond the basic. Significant resources are spent on the social determinants of health in an effort to develop more of a preventative health care program.”
Kuiper and his wife, Patty, have three children, although none have followed in the health care fields. His son, Joshua, is a golf pro while daughter Megan just graduated from law school, and their youngest child, Emily, is attending college in the Tampa area. Kuiper travels to Florida and the Netherlands to see family, although that might not be very often with his double duty work at St. John’s.
The national search for a new CEO at St. John’s will start after the holidays and Kuiper estimates that will be a 4-6-month process with a search firm.
In the meantime, Kuiper is looking forward to new challenges, meeting more often with the many medical providers at St. John’s and working with the leaders in the facilities in Springfield.
“Enhancing all aspects of our health care system is what I want to do,” Kuiper says, “and I am honored to lead this organization.”