“You find the heart of an organization on the front lines,” new Carson Valley Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Jeff Prater said during his first day of work June 4. “That’s where the defining work is being done. That’s where our focus needs to be.”
It’s a statement he makes not from sense of the corporately clichéd “30,000-foot view,” but from his own experience on the front lines -- first serving in the U.S. Navy for seven years and later working his way up in the world of healthcare administration.
Take his first job out of college, for example, where he worked as an office manager for a small pediatric rehabilitation clinic in North Carolina.
“I was the office manager, but -- you know -- I was also the IT guy, the accounts payable department and accounts receivable department,” he said. “I was the plumber on some days. One job with a lot of hats. Over time, in one experience or another, I’ve been able to work many of the jobs you’d find in a hospital.”
“It’s a unique background. I’m able to relate to the teams doing those jobs here because I can relate to the challenges and the pressures the staff feels in the different departments.”
Prater served in the Navy as a hospital corpsman stationed at multiple locations from 1993 to 2000. During that time, he worked as an emergency medical technician, an endoscopy technologist, a medical and pediatric floor corpsman, a pre-trauma hospital life support instructor and a physical therapy technician.
Aside from the hands-on experience, he also learned under a variety of leadership styles and approaches.
A commanding officer he served under left a lasting impression on him as he considered where his career would go following his Naval service.
“I just felt that in order to care for people, you have to care about people,” Prater said. “Sometimes in the healthcare industry, I think that gets lost. You have to care about people, and you have to have people on the front lines that care about people. We have that here at Carson Valley Medical Center.”
After graduating from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2001 with a Bachelor’s of Health Sciences, he considered pursuing either medical or nursing school. Ultimately, he chose to go into healthcare administration and later achieved his Master’s of Health Administration in 2006 from Montana State University.
Most recently, he served as the hospital administrator for Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka, Alaska.
In Carson Valley Medical Center, Prater said he saw an opportunity to join an established, growing organization with a proven and experienced team, while living in what he called an “Adventure Sports Mecca.”
“I’m avid hunter, fisher, hiker, camper, golfer,” he said. “We ski during the winter. Carson Valley just had a little bit of everything we love.”
Carson Valley Medical Center has added four primary care providers in the past year -- expanding its staff to 16 providers at five clinic locations around the community -- and has significantly upgraded its technological services in recent months, adding a mobile X-ray machine to its advanced diagnostic imaging department and an ultraviolet disinfection system used in the operating rooms and hospital rooms. A three-dimensional mammography machine will be installed this year. The Minden Family Medicine rural health clinic, located on Lucerne Street, is slated for expansion in the near future.
“It is an exciting time for the organization as we continue to upgrade our abilities to serve the community and care for its overall health and wellness,” Prater said. “I’m excited to be here and am looking forward to getting to know this community.”
Prater replaces Preston Becker, who left CVMC at the beginning of the year to become the Chief Operating Officer at Barton Health in South Lake Tahoe.
Prater and his wife, Kama Blasing, are living in Genoa and will be looking for a permanent home in the Valley in the coming weeks.
Of his four children, three are active duty military -- a daughter in the Marines stationed in Fort Worth, Texas, a son in the Air Force stationed in Charleston, S.C., and a son in the Army stationed in Fort Carson, Col. -- and the fourth is living in Vietnam teaching English and studying engineering. He also has a three-year-old grandson and another grandchild on the way.
“Family reunions, everyone comes to us,” Prater said with a laugh.
Carson Valley Medical Center is a nonprofit medical organization that provides acute and ICU care, surgery, 24-hour emergency services, primary care and outpatient services throughout the Valley.