A Q&A with Dr. Brian Erling, CEO & President of Renown Health
November 14, 2022
On behalf of Renown’s more than 7,000 employees, we are thrilled to introduce our healthcare system’s next CEO and President, Brian Erling, MD, MBA. Dr. Erling joins Renown after working for more than 20 years in Colorado, most recently as the CEO and President of Penrose-St. Francis Health System in Colorado Springs for Centura Health.
“I am so excited to join Renown Health at this important time. Healthcare and our economy are amid a major transformation, and Renown Health is very well positioned for the future,” Dr. Erling said. “Our ongoing success will hinge on our ability to establish positive and productive relationships, maintain high-quality patient clinical outcomes and experiences, reduce healthcare costs, encourage innovation and improve access and affordability for patients and members.”
Q: Let’s start at the beginning. When did your interest in healthcare first begin?
A: Believe it or not, I started my healthcare career during high school in Minnesota when I worked as a nursing assistant. I then worked as a monitor tech while pursuing my undergraduate degree in biology from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Q: Where did you go to medical school, and what was your first job after training?
A: After graduating from The John Hopkins University School of Medicine and spending three years at the University of Virginia for my residency, I spent more than a decade in the emergency department at a level 1 trauma center.
Q: Does your experience as a physician impact your approach to healthcare leadership?
A: Yes, absolutely. I have worked my fair share of nights, weekends and holidays, and I know the sacrifices healthcare workers – and their families – make to care for our communities. I will never take it for granted. I also understand how complex healthcare organizations are, and I have experienced these complexities from both the clinical and non-clinical sides. I have provided clinical leadership for a large, regional health system and understand that quality, safety and innovation come from the people doing the work, not from a corporate office. But you also need strong managers and leaders to facilitate and prioritize the work while providing support and coaching.
Q: What is the key to a successful healthcare system?
A: Teamwork. In fact, being part of a high-performing, mission-driven team is my number one motivation. It’s what gets me up in the morning and why I work in healthcare. I view our greatest resource to be our people, meaning Renown’s more than 7,000 employees. Modern technologies – such as fancy robots and imaging equipment – are essential and pretty cool, but they are not why our patients choose us. They come for trusted care in their hometown.
Q: Renown Health is going through a lot of exciting changes right now. What is one thing that excites you about joining this healthcare system in a rapidly expanding area of the country?
A: I am very excited about the new partnership with Renown and the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. While still in its infancy, it provides the platform for us to be the center for training, research and tertiary care for the region and beyond.
Q: What is something you have learned from working with CEOs at other healthcare systems?
A: Healthcare leaders often have a short half-life, but that is not me. I believe it is difficult to create and move an organization toward a unified vision when your leader changes every few years. As my track record will support, this is not my style. I have been in Colorado for over twenty years and now look forward to making Reno and Renown my home for years to come.
Q: As you know, Hometown Health is Renown’s health insurance arm. How does equitable access to insurance fit into a person’s and a community’s overall well-being?
A: Most health systems would love to have their own health plan. The reality is that you cannot meaningfully improve the health of the population without managing value and risk. We are fortunate to have Hometown Health as part of Renown Health, and in our community, and I am excited to work with Bethany and the team to fulfill the mission of the organization.
Q: What does working at a not-for-profit healthcare system mean to you? How does it differ from the for-profit sector?
A: I have worked in for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare. Renown is unique as the only not-for-profit health system in the market. What that means is that we invest every penny earned back into caring for our community. We don’t send money to shareholders in California or Pennsylvania, we invest it right here in Nevada. Not only is a not-for-profit healthcare organization where I want to work for, but it is where my family and I want to go for care.
Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: I love spending time with my wife and three adult children. I met my wife, Jessica, while attending medical school in Baltimore. She was working as a nurse in the surgical ICU, and I was smitten. I offered to help her with a 3 a.m. bed linen change and bath for our trauma patient, and the rest was history. I also love exploring the outdoors, especially snowboarding!