On Thursdays, we highlight an oral history featuring a health care leader who shaped the past and laid the foundation for the future. Since 1978, the AHA has conducted more than 100 interviews as part of this project, and transcripts are available in the oral history collection on the AHA’s Resource Center webpage. The following oral history with John King comes from an interview conducted in 2015.

John G. King — hospital administrator and former chairman of the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees — served in multiple leadership roles throughout his career. As the son of grocery business owners, King not only learned achievement through hard work, but also the importance of generosity and giving back to one’s community. King also credits his parents for the value of education instilled in him, pointing to his father’s return to college at the age of 50 as an example. Driven by a passion to “do something with more value to humanity and to society,” a Dartmouth professor advised King to consider an emerging profession called hospital administration. The next day he met with Bill Wilson, the chief administrator of Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, to discuss a career in hospital administration. Before beginning the University of Minnesota Program in Hospital Administration, King served two summers as an orderly at Owatonna Hospital while home from Dartmouth.

King completed his graduate school residency at Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, where he was later hired on full-time. Fairview was in the process of launching new programs, pioneering inpatient psychiatric treatment in a general hospital, for example, and was developing the concept of the satellite hospital. Later in his career, King worked with Holy Cross Health Systems Corp., South Bend, Ind., and Evangelical Health Systems (EHS), Oak Brook, Ill., both established faith-based systems. At EHS, a focus was on rightsizing the board structure throughout the system and on integrating and coordinating corporate services. John later moved to Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore., where he led integration efforts at this faith-based system.

In this oral history, King reminisces about lessons learned in the process of integrating organizations after building a new satellite hospital or acquiring existing facilities. He also discusses the precursors of population health that the leadership team was trying out at Fairview in the early ‘70s. King’s parting advice for young people interested in a career in health administration — volunteer, or get a job as an orderly and see what working in a hospital is like.

To read the full oral history transcript, click here

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