New CEO Puts Focus on Quality, Accessibility and Convenience

Mark Behl officially took the reins as NorthBay Health President and CEO on Jan. 1, 2024. He is excited about the opportunity to lead a locally managed and operated system dedicated to fulfilling the community’s health needs. Among his first priorities will be to establish a five-year strategic plan focused on delivering convenient, accessible and top-notch care at NorthBay’s hospitals in Vacaville and Fairfield, as well as in numerous primary, specialty and urgent care clinics, while also looking for opportunities to grow services where they are needed most.

He comes to NorthBay from Milwaukee, Wisc., where he served as the Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for Froedtert Health System, which includes 10 hospitals, three regional markets and more than 100 ambulatory clinics and health centers.

His career has included progressive management and leadership roles across several organizations, including Dignity Health Medical Foundation (DHMF) over California, UC San Diego Health, and Renown Medical Group in Reno, Nevada.

As he gets to know the employees and physicians who make up NorthBay Health, he is also excited about connecting with the community, and plans to participate in a number of local events in the months ahead. He is happy to share a few insights with our Wellspring readers:

Q Would you start at the beginning and tell us why you chose to go into healthcare?

A My interest began nearly 20 years ago after two major back-to-back family healthcare incidents. One involved my father, and the other with one of our daughters. Although both were harrowing events, they sparked a passion to pursue a healthcare profession. I felt the system had failed my family, and I wanted to make it better for others. I wanted to change the world, so to speak, not only for my family but my community. That began a journey that continues today.

Q Have you been able to make the difference that you wanted to in healthcare?

A Absolutely. One of my passions is that everyone, regardless of race, color, creed or any other criterion should be able to receive high-quality, accessible healthcare. In previous roles, I have brought urgent care clinics, micro-hospitals and primary care offices to communities that lacked needed services.

Q What was the appeal of the NorthBay CEO job?

Rounding with other executive leaders, NorthBay Health President and CEO Mark Behl shakes hands with Kim McQueen, Clinical Manager for the medical/surgical wing on 2 North at NorthBay Health Medical Center.
Rounding with other executive leaders, NorthBay Health President and CEO Mark Behl shakes hands with Kim McQueen, Clinical Manager for the medical/surgical wing on 2 North at NorthBay Health Medical Center.

A There were a lot of things that attracted me to this position. First was the opportunity to work in a system that makes all the decisions locally. I have worked for large health systems, and while they represent an opportunity to make a difference on a much larger scale, designing high-caliber healthcare can be challenging when colleagues are spread out among different regions or states and have little knowledge of the individual needs of the communities they serve. My passion is to make an impact for a specific region and to do so at a consistent level of excellence. That requires a system where the key decision-makers and those who provide the care are working together very closely. After all, those decisions impact the communities where they actually live and work. You make different decisions when you know that a family member, or friend, or neighbor will be personally affected. Second, it was the return to California. I lived in Benicia shortly after college, so I was familiar with the area. However, after spending time throughout Solano County and experiencing all that it has to offer — my wife Sara and I fell in love with it. Finally, the NorthBay system is really a special place, with a great team of physicians, clinicians, leadership team and team members. I could see and feel that during the interview process.

Q NorthBay Health has experienced a lot of changes during the past few years. What excites you about joining the system at this point and time?

A NorthBay is a unique system. We are the only locally owned and operated system in Solano County. We are a not-for-profit health system, which means, every dollar that we earn is reinvested back into our community. Our leadership team wakes up each and every day trying to make a difference for Solano County. We don’t have to convince shareholders or leaders who live in other communities to invest in our area. Because of this, we know that if we are successful, so is our community. That’s what excites me more than anything else, knowing we are improving the quality of life for our family, friends and community.

Q What is something you have learned from working at national healthcare systems, academic medical centers and from CEOs at other healthcare systems?

A I have learned a great deal from each of the systems I have worked in. Academic Medical Centers are really the highest complexity of care for a region. They are amazing, and the specialized services delivered in those facilities are really what makes the U.S. healthcare system so special. The national healthcare systems do things really well at a much larger scale and scope. They move much slower, but they deliver with a mighty force when they get organized around a problem to solve. I have learned moving quickly in healthcare has significant advantages. The regional healthcare system model, in my opinion, is the best model to deliver first-class, convenient, and accessible care for communities because all decisions are made locally, the resources are reinvested into the communities they serve, and they can move really fast (for healthcare systems).

Q What do you see as a top priority for NorthBay during the next few years?

A Our top priority in 2024 will be to continue to provide exceptional healthcare while sustaining the successful financial turnaround of the past year. In addition, a lot has changed since the last time NorthBay developed a strategic plan (2019), and we must plan for what we want to be during the next 5 years. We will develop a new Strategic Plan in 2024, and begin executing upon the plan in 2025.

Q You have worked in San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee. All of these are larger metropolitan areas. This will be a smaller system that is covering smaller cities. What will change in your approach?

A This role is really a return to my roots growing up in Northern Nevada. Growing up there, I loved the outdoors, the mountains, and I gained an appreciation for the hard work of ranchers and farmers who were my friends and neighbors. This reminds me a lot of that time. These communities throughout Northern California are also very similar to Northern Wisconsin — a lot of suburban farmland and ranchland — the heartland of America. The approach is quite different than the urban cities I have worked in, and quite honestly, I prefer the places where a handshake means something, what you see is what you get, and to get ahead — you have to work hard. One plan for sure is to get out and meet people in their specific communities to learn more about the history of their area, their journey and figure out how we can help address the needs they have.

Q What do you want NorthBay communities and NorthBay Health team members to know about you?

A That I am excited to be here and I promise to devote every effort of my mind and spirit to leading NorthBay to greatness and prosperity. Because I know that if we are successful then we will be an exceptional partner for both health and healthcare for the entire community that we serve throughout Northern California. It will also mean that we are a great place to work, which is important, as we are one of the largest employers in Solano County.

Q What is the key to a successful healthcare system?

A I believe strongly that a successful healthcare system will deliver convenient, accessible, and exceptionally high-quality healthcare. This is what drives the NorthBay team each and every day.

Q What are your impressions of the area and where are you going to live?

A As I have said, my wife Sara and I fell in love with the whole service area — from Winters, to Dixon, to Benicia —  and we knew we wanted to be close to my office in Green Valley, so we were fortunate to find a beautiful house in the Suisun Valley area. Each and every day we wake up and are in awe of the beauty of the hills and the vineyards, and of course our German Shepherd (Bruin) is thrilled too.

Q What do you like to do for fun?

A We like to travel and explore. We also enjoy hiking trails, beachfront walks, day trips to small towns, and of course — wine tasting!

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