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Two top executives at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse announced Tuesday that they are leaving their posts — one to focus on patient care and the other to retire.

Dr. Tim Johnson will leave his position as Mayo Clinic’s regional vice president for southwest Wisconsin in September to treat patients. Joe Kruse plans to retire by the end of the year from his position as regional administration chairman for Mayo Clinic Health System’s southwest Wisconsin region.

Asked what he is proudest of as Mayo-Franciscan’s CEO, the 63-year-old Johnson said, “I and our team have created a compassionate, caring community emphasizing quality, safety and problem-solving that focuses on eliminating waste.”

The Mayo-Franciscan atmosphere is founded on “a great deal of respect for everyone who works here,” he said.

“It is based on servant leadership — the value of respect (we are) taught to use in many, many ways by our sisters,” he said, referring to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who have transferred control over the hospital and Viterbo University in La Crosse, effective July 1, to focus on other ministries.

Asked what health care’s biggest challenge is, Johnson said, “The global challenge is increasing quality while at the same time lowering costs.”

That can be accomplished through research, education, innovative developments and new models to take advantage of technology, he said.

“It also means letting go of a lot of ‘the way we’ve always done it,’” Johnson said.

“I look forward to the year ahead as we work to optimize the power of the Epic electronic health record and expand our specialty practices,” he said.

Kruse said, “I have felt blessed to be able to call this beautiful and inspiring location my home for more than 30 years, and to be a part of this team of supportive, caring, positive staff.”

Asked about his retirement plans, Kruse noted that he recently read an article referring to retirement as the third act, so he plans to take a “creative direction in writing and acting that third act, with more time for other things.”

Kruse and his wife, Barb, will continue to live in La Crosse, where two of their four sons live, and maintain involvement in community activities. They have two granddaughters, “with tons of potential for more grandchildren,” he said, grinning.

An avid woodworker, Kruse said he and Barb also have a small tract of land near Ontario in Vernon County where they also will spend time.

The aspect of Mayo-Franciscan he will miss most, he said, is the “the people, the relationships, a lot of great people doing great work. I’ve been lucky to do meaningful work.”

Mayo officials said they opted to coordinate the transitions concurrently to ensure a smooth succession.

“Without doubt, the hallmark achievement of this leadership team has been their commitment to protecting and enhancing a culture of genuine caring that permeates the Mayo practices across southwest Wisconsin,” said Dr. Bobbie Gostout, a Mayo Clinic vice president.

Johnson came to Mayo-Franciscan in June 2010 from the Austin (Minn.) Medical Center, also affiliated with the Mayo Clinic. He has continued to treat patients, focusing on physical medicine and rehabilitation, musculoskeletal disorders and pain management.

Kruse’s role as administration vice chairman includes all of Mayo-Franciscan and other services in the southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa regions. He is responsible for overall operational and strategic administrative leadership for the southwest Wisconsin region.

Having worked at Mayo-Franciscan for 34 years, Kruse has filled several administrative roles over the years, including being chief administrative officer since October 2012.

Kruse has served several community boards and is a past board chairman for the Greater La Crosse Chamber of Commerce, Franke Foundation and A Place of Grace Catholic Worker House. Barb is on the staff of the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse as a spiritual director and program coordinator.



Mike Tighe is the Tribune newsroom's senior citizen. That said, he don't get no respect from the cub reporters as he goes about his duly-appointed rounds on the health, religion and whatever-else-lands-in-his-inbox beats. Call him at 608-791-8446.

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