Hospital CEO Aims for Balance in Leadership

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Frank Perez-Guerra
Frank Perez-Guerra

The first Tuesday in February was a big day for Frank Perez-Guerra ’84, ’10, administrator/chief executive officer at Gundersen Moundview Hospital and Clinics in Friendship. The hospital conducted its first COVID-19 mass vaccination event, inoculating over 220 people in the course of the day.

Perez-Guerra didn’t have to wait for a report on the vaccination clinic. He was in the thick of it. Instead of sitting in his office, he took a shift as a greeter and a guide.

“No task is beneath me, and nothing has been in my entire working career,” said Perez-Guerra, who has been the hospital’s administrator/CEO for about three years. “I truly think it’s the right thing to do. I’m no different than anybody else.”

Perez-Guerra’s approach to leadership was largely formed by working and learning with outstanding senior leaders throughout his career and, of course, at Viterbo. After graduating from La Crosse Central High School, Perez-Guerra spent two years at the University of Wisconsin in Madison before transferring to Viterbo, where he majored in psychology.

Perez-Guerra magazine

He had thought he’d go into clinical psychology, but after taking some business courses at Viterbo, he discovered industrial organizational psychology and was drawn toward human resources management.

For the first part of his career, Perez-Guerra held HR positions in banking and finance, but in 1996 he joined Gundersen Clinic, where his father had worked as a physician. Perez-Guerra came aboard as director of physician recruitment, going on to take on a number of roles there, including executive director of human resources.

When his work at Gundersen called for graduate level education, Perez-Guerra returned to Viterbo to earn a Master of Business Administration degree. “The program really offered a very focused approach to leadership,” he said. “In every class they always weaved in the concept of being an ethical leader. That really appealed to me. The master’s program certainly added to what I’ve always believed about leadership.”

Perez-Guerra’s approach to leadership in the workplace puts an emphasis on balance. Yes, he serves the organization for which he works, but that must be in concert with the needs of the employees, he said.

“You have to make sure the human side of things doesn’t get lost. That is so critical,” Perez-Guerra said. “If you don’t have that kind of approach, you won’t be successful. You won’t have trust in your environment.”

Moundview Hospital was a new member of Gundersen Health System when Perez-Guerra was named administrator/CEO. His new colleagues (he doesn’t call them “staff”) had to not only get used to a new leader, they had to adapt to new ways of doing things.

“That all takes some delicate discussions. You don’t just flip a switch,” he said. “You get people ready for it, and you continually engage them.”

Perez-Guerra, who served as president of the MBA/MASL chapter of the Viterbo Alumni Association, never expected to become a CEO. He chalks this up to a lot of hard work along with some sheer luck.

Being administrator/CEO of a hospital has a lot in common with his previous roles at Gundersen, he said. “My job is to take care of people who take care of people.”

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