Bellville Medical Center hires CEO with ‘big chair’ experience

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Daniel Bonk comes to Bellville Medical Center with a hefty resume of administering hospital systems that make Bellville look like a small clinic in comparison.

That raises the question of why would someone of his 30-plus years of experience and expertise with large hospital systems want to be the chief executive officer of a small, rural hospital system?

“This is what I want to do,” he said. “I want this to be my last job. I want to come here and be a part of the community.”

Bonk, 65, was born and raised in Whitewater, Wisc., a community at the time of about 4,000 people – roughly the size of Bellville today.

“Bellville reminds me a lot of my hometown in Wisconsin,” he said.

The attraction to Bellville is much more than a tranquil, rural setting. Bonk likes what he sees in the organizational and cultural structure of the hospital system.

“This place fits who I am,” he said, noting the commitment to quality care and the teamwork exhibited here.

He said his guiding principles are quality, integrity, accountability, and teamwork.

“To do that I’ve got to get the trust of the people I work with,” he said. “If the people don’t trust you, you should pack up your bags and get out.”

He said the longevity of the nursing staff, doctors and others at the hospital speaks to the dedication and experience of the staff.

“The nursing staff has really been consistent here and that helps prevent all kinds of errors,” he said.

He said he is also impressed with the Tri-County Emergency Room recently opened in Sealy.

The Bellville Hospital District Board also likes what it sees in Bonk.

“We did a national search and received over 100 applications from across the country,” said board chairman Michael Koehn. “We focused on applicants that had Texas experience. When discussing the position of CEO, I often say ‘a person who has sat in the big chair’ meaning the person who the weight of an organization falls upon. Dan has experience in ‘the big chair’ at small hospitals as well as large hospital systems.

“We believe Dan's experience along with his passion for serving his community is the perfect fit for our mindset of homegrown health care. Bellville Medical Center is a small hospital with big ideas. We believe health care is best delivered and managed by local people not large corporations in faraway places. In other words, Austin County people managing the health care for residents of Austin County,” Koehn said.

Between Whitewater and Bellville Bonk has covered a lot of territory. His first job out of college was as the director of patient education for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. From there he went to Knoxville, Tenn., where he helped open a cancer center and a medical mall. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he helped open and manage hospitals and other medical facilities in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, and Florida.

While he was serving as the chief executive officer of Palms of Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., he had to evacuate the hospital for a hurricane, something that was on his mind in Bellville when Hurricane Laura was still approaching Texas.

He eventually joined Covenant Health Care and returned home to Milwaukee, Wisc., where he was president of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and St. Francis Community Hospital. That led to a 10-year stint with Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee where he served as an executive vice president.

He was hired to serve as the CEO of a hospital in Aspen, Colo., for a two-year term to turn it around, which he did. He made a move to San Antonio where he served as the CEO of Nix Healthcare System until he formed his own consulting business in 2017. He was an interim CEO for a hospital in Milwaukee before answering the call to come to Bellville in August.

His wife Carrie is the communications director for Oak Hills Church in San Antonio and its pastor, Max Lucado. The Bonks are in the process of moving to Bellville. They have two children, a grown daughter and a son who is in college.

Bonk said he feels his position in Bellville is a perfect fit for him and his family.

“Quality is the expectation of everyone here,” he said. “We’re all invested in quality.”

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