Portrait of Rulon Stacey, director of graduate programs in health admin

Healthcare Luminary Returns to CO to Join Business School

March 9, 2020

The Business School welcomes CU Denver alum and esteemed healthcare leader Rulon Stacey as the new director of graduate programs in health administration. Stacey, PhD, officially started his new role Jan. 1, 2020. He comes from Minnesota, where he most recently served as a managing director for Navigant Consulting’s Healthcare Strategy business unit, providing expertise in the areas of organizational transformation, strategy development, and performance leadership. Prior, he was president and CEO of Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis.

Stacey, who has a BS in economics and a masters in health administration from Brigham Young University, is no stranger to Colorado. He received his PhD in public administration from CU Denver’s Graduate School of Public Affairs and served as CEO of Fort Collins’ Poudre Valley Health System, which during his tenure received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award—a recognition established by Congress to commend U.S. companies that have implemented successful quality management systems. Rulon lead the merger of Poudre Valley Health System and the University of Colorado Hospital, and became the inaugural CEO of the newly formed company, University of Colorado Health (UCHealth). 

During his career Stacey has served as Chair of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Chair of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Overseers, and currently serves as the Chair of the CEO Circle of the International Hospital Federation.  

As the new program director for the graduate programs in health administration, Stacey will oversee operations for both the campus and executive programs in health administration. He will work alongside faculty and staff to enhance the design and delivery of high-quality learning opportunities for students, acquire and support funding for research, and engage with industry experts to strengthen healthcare partnerships.

We sat down with Stacey to talk about his new role. Read more below.

Why did you take this job in particular?

It was too good to pass up. I worked to get a PhD 25 years ago with the idea that I wanted to teach during the last portion of my career. However, when the director position became available at a University for which I have so much respect, I knew I could not pass. In truth this transition was about five years sooner than I would have expected. But, as this part of my career has been my goal for 25 years, I took the opportunity when it presented itself.  

What differentiates this health administration program from others in the state and region?

Many things. It’s the state health administration program. That gives us a lot of clout in working with organizations throughout the state and region. Our program is 50 years old—one of the oldest health administration programs in the world. At BYU, I was in the first graduating class of the masters in health administration program. The problem I had at BYU is exactly not the problem here—here we have 50 years’ worth of alumni with whom we can connect.

Our program is the only accredited health administration program in the state. That is a big deal for potential employers. They want somebody who they know comes from a program that meets the standards of CAHME-accreditation. 

You are teaching a field study course this semester. Do you enjoy the teaching aspect of your job?

Yes, I enjoy it very much. This has been a great opportunity for me.  The rationale behind this course is that we are hoping to create a program that not only can emphasize the “theory” of healthcare, but also the “practice” of healthcare. It’s taking our students, connecting them with local organizations, and helping them complete studies in these organizations. I work with each student to develop a study and make sure it’s academically viable. Every major hospital system in the Front Range is helping with this. 

We have one student in a hospital ER, one working on supply chain issues, one looking at efficient use of pharmaceuticals in an organization, one in a physician’s office. It’s impressive to me how these organizations have stepped up. They are all happy to help. We have 20 students in the class this semester and they all are all working on meaningful projects. 

What kind of jobs do students come out of your program having?

We have an alum who is in charge of physicians’ compensation for the world’s largest physicians’ compensation firm. We have an alum who started, built, and sold a revenue cycle company. We have an alum at a startup in Silicon Valley who is starting an app to address the digital front door of healthcare. We have alumni who are working for insurance companies, in physician practice management, and at both large and small organizations. And, you’ll notice that I’ve listed all those alums before I even get to hospital management. A degree here prepares our students for any aspect of healthcare. It gives them the tools to be successful in any part of the industry, and I can prove it. 

What are you looking forward to most about your new role?

I’m looking forward to growing the program. That means increasing the number of students, increasing in the national rankings, and increasing research dollars that come in so we can do truly industry-relevant research here. I’m looking forward to integrating with our alumni and friends to find students the very best opportunities. Today, for example, I connected a student to a fellowship in Washington, D.C. 

We’ve also got some really meaningful faculty here doing some really meaningful things that benefit the students and the entire industry. In the end, it’s education and research, that’s what we do. I think with our framework, the two are not only compatible—they are synergistic. As one gets better, the other will get better. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

My “me time” is fly fishing. We have a home in Estes Park on the Big Thompson River. My biggest accomplishment this week has been that I was able to buy 200 cutthroat trout and 200 brook trout to plant in my pond on the Thompson River.