John O&rsquo;Brien will begin his administrative duties Monday, Feb. 20, with orientation at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. His first day at Manning Regional Healthcare Center will be Tuesday, Feb. 21&nbsp;&nbsp; <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Daily Times Herald photo archives</em></span>
John O’Brien will begin his administrative duties Monday, Feb. 20, with orientation at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. His first day at Manning Regional Healthcare Center will be Tuesday, Feb. 21   Daily Times Herald photo archives
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

MANNING — Mercy Medical Center and the Manning Regional Healthcare Center board of directors have announced that John O’Brien, of Iowa Falls, who has over 36 years experience in health-care administration, has been named MRHC chief executive officer.

“We want to welcome Mr. O’Brien to the community,” said board president Randy Behrens. “He has considerable healthcare experience, and we are confident that he will be a good fit and a fine leader for the future of our facility.”

O’Brien holds a bachelor of arts degree in History from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Detroit. He says that the passion he holds for the health-care industry today is the direct result of an entry-level position at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Mich.

“My parents were lamenting that they had a college graduate sitting at home without a job during the recession,” O’Brien recalls. “They had a friend who was a physician at Henry Ford, and he said there were positions open there. So, I started on the afternoon and midnight shift as the ‘admitting guy,’ but it was a great way to learn hospitals. You just learned health care and you learned people so well.”

He spent 11 years at Henry Ford, working his way up to assistant administrator of the Heart and Vascular Institute, and was then recruited to join the staff at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburg, Pa. In 1986, he began his tenure there as the administrator for the surgery department, and in the next nine years, advanced to the position of vice president of the 746-bed teaching and referral hospital. After being laid off from Allegheny, he was able to work with one of its support programs and have the opportunity to reflect on his career and life’s path.

“We had a unique opportunity to decide, mid-career, if this is what I really wanted to do,” said O’Brien. “We spent some time discussing it, and I realized that this is my passion. I saw an ad for a job in Iowa in an industry publication, so we ended up here.”

He and his wife of 34 years, Chris, have never regretted the decision to move to Iowa. He says that after 36 years, he is even more passionate about the health-care industry, especially after having seen first-hand the impact that health care has on the people it serves.

“After 36 years, it is the ability to make a difference,” he said. “There is a lot that is mundane, but when you look at the reason we are doing all of this, that is the thing that helps get you up in the morning. When I was in Pittsburgh, I had the opportunity to watch the first heart transplant. I got a call on Friday saying they had a heart coming and the first patient was being done. Watching the heart start beating in this man’s chest was simply awe-inspiring. But what was even more impactful was the story about the doctor getting off the helicopter with the heart in an Igloo cooler, running past the people in the corridor and disappearing into the hospital. The people standing there asked the life-flight crew if that was a heart. They answered that yes, it was, and the members of that group began crying, saying the heart was for their father. Soon, everyone there was in tears. That is when you know you are part of a community, whether it is helping people to heal or helping families heal after a tragedy. All of our efforts are to support this ability to give back to the community.”

O’Brien adds that he hopes to bring a set of skills and knowledge to Manning and the broader community MRHC serves that will have a positive impact. He says he not only cares about the hospital’s position, but also about the communities and community members themselves.

Both John and Chris O’Brien have many interests, but through one of his, walking, he is able to get to know people on a different level. He says that he likes to go on walks during his lunch hour as a way to get out and eliminate some stress, but that it is foremost a great way to meet and talk to people. The couple’s love for golden retrievers, and now a rescued poodle, also lead him into walks and encounters with people on a daily basis.

“When you see me wandering around, when I am walking, especially once the weather gets warmer, just say hello,” he said. “I am the tall guy, with the, unfortunately now, white mustache and thinning hair.”

In addition to walking, he enjoys reading and photography; and, having grown up in the Detroit area, a love for his 1972 Dodge Challenger.

His wife, Chris, who he first met on a blind date in high school and then married after meeting up again several years later, has had a long-term struggle with muscular dystrophy. This, however, has not stymied her creative spirit as she is an accomplished artist, dealing mainly in watercolors. She has done murals and paintings for many clients in Iowa Falls and has a studio and a framing space in their home. She also hand crafts jewelry from her original designs.

O’Brien will begin his administrative duties Monday, Feb. 20, with orientation at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. His first day at Manning Regional Healthcare Center will be Tuesday, Feb. 21.