Chris Wolf’s father has been a physician for 44 years. His uncle also is a doctor.
So were his grandfather and his grandfather’s brother.
Wolf, 43, has broken from that familial tradition. He is not a doctor. But he hasn’t wandered out of the medical field.
He’s the new CEO of Payson Regional Medical Center, having officially replaced the facility’s former head administrator, Russell Judd, in mid-October.
And the first thing Wolf wants Rim country residents to know is that, when he accepted the job, he was making a long-term commitment to the hospital, to its staff, to its patients, and to the community.
“After seeing this hospital and knowing Russell for about six years, I knew it would be a fantastic opportunity in a real community atmosphere,” said Wolf, the former CEO of Bullhead City’s Western Arizona Regional Medical Center which, like PRMC, is one of 62 hospitals in 22 states owned by Community Health Systems.
“Bullhead City is powered by gambling tourism, and it’s not real conducive to community spirit and getting your family involved in community activities,” Wolf said. “So we’re really excited to be here excited about getting involved, becoming active. And living in a small town, you have the feeling that you can make positive change, that you can really make a difference.”
Making a difference, especially in the realm of health care, is “something I’m passionate about,” said Wolf, who brought that same level of caring to his two-year stint in Bullhead City.
“We made some tremendous modifications to that facility. We added a third floor, a brand new cath lab, an outpatient imaging center. We saw a great deal of growth,” he said.
Wolf expects to witness a similar maturation at Payson Regional Medical Center. But that’s not to say he isn’t impressed with the facility just as it is.
“The quality of staff here is fantastic; you’ve got 400 or 500 years of experience collectively,” he said.
“The amount of knowledge and expertise here is amazing. And for a hospital this size, I’m also amazed by the surgical service and specialties that we have available ... We’ve got a new fixed MRI service, and the technology in our lab, as well as in radiology, is unmatched. We’ve also got a new pathology service out of the University of Health Sciences Center in Tucson. They came, toured our laboratory and said that our equipment is as modern and updated as the equipment at the major universities.”
The oldest of four children, Wolf was born and raised in rural Oklahoma. In 1978, he left home to attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., from which he departed six years later with a BS degree in biology.
After working in sales for a major pharmaceutical company, Wolf started his own durable medical goods business which led to a marketing and business-development position within an Oklahoma hospital owned by Community Health Systems. After six months, Wolf was promoted to CEO, and after one year, he was moved to Cheraw, S.C., where he ran Chesterfield General Hospital.
In December of 2000, Community Health Systems transferred Wolf to an associate CEO position in its 90-bed Bullhead City hospital. And that’s where Wolf was just a few months ago, when he was given the chance to relocate to Arizona’s pine country.
“I was immediately attracted by the environment, the climate and the opportunities,” said Wolf, who soon arrived in Payson with Mary, his wife of 20 years, and their two children, Alan, 13, and Jenna, 9.
Just as quickly, Wolf went to work on the 2003 business plan for Payson Regional Medical Center.
“On looking at the medical staff, and the sense I get from those around me on the needs of the community, a top priority is building a medical staff that can provide more care to the community,” he said. “I want to try my best to increase the value of our personnel, and to provide them with the tools so they can do the very best job they can.”
Another of Wolf’s objectives is to reduce the number of locals who are leaving the area for their obstetrics and gynecological care.
“We’ve got over 50 percent out-migration on babies right now, so our beautiful new OB ward really needs to be recognized to its full potential,” he said.
Finally, improving the PRMC’s technology is a “huge part” of Wolf’s long-term commitment because it would increase the hospital’s ability to provide care for cardiac patients and the aging population.
“We know we can’t do everything,” Wolf said. “But we want to be able to treat those people who need a general acute-care facility, and we want them to know that they have one of the best hospitals in the state.”