Boulder is losing the visionary executive who led a sweeping transformation of local health care services.

David P. Gehant, President/CEO at Boulder Community Health since 1988, will retire at the end of the summer. Gehant, 61, was the architect of BCH’s evolution from a single hospital into a sophisticated, integrated health network with 2,300 employees and 18 facilities spread across six communities.

Gehant is leaving health care to focus on family.

“At this point in my life, my three wonderful grandchildren are my top priority,” Gehant said. “Health care is a demanding field. Giving so much attention to BCH has had its impacts on my family. I couldn’t have been successful at BCH without the consistent support of my wife, Marjorie. Now, Marjorie and I have gotten to the stage in life where we want to spend more time with our family.”

“You really can’t overstate Dave’s impact on health care in Boulder,” said real estate developer Lou DellaCava, former chairman of the BCH Board of Directors. “Under his leadership, we went from a single hospital to a nationally recognized health system. He is leaving huge shoes to fill.”

The BCH Board of Directors will name an acting CEO to initially guide operations when Gehant leaves. BCH will do a national search to identify its next CEO. No timeline has been set for making that selection.

A Minnesota native, Gehant joined Boulder Community Hospital in 1988. During his 27 years at the helm, he has persistently pursued his personal vision that unifying local health care operations would be the key to maintaining a strong independent health care system.

“Competition has many benefits, but in health care it can lead to unnecessary duplication of services that wastes money, increases costs and actually lowers the quality of care,” he observed. “I wanted to bring local providers together so we shared objectives, shared resources and focused on improving the quality of medical care rather than competing for patients.”

Gehant’s first major move in that direction was purchasing Boulder Memorial Hospital in 1989 and merging its operations with Boulder Community Hospital. In the BCH system, Boulder Memorial became the Mapleton Center for Rehabilitation.

Gehant began directly employing local physicians in 1994 in order to improve coordination between doctors and hospitals and maintain strong primary care services for the community. Today, BCH employs 109 physicians and other providers at clinics scattered throughout Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette, Longmont and Superior.

“Integrating physicians and hospitals into a unified system provides better coordination of care and better outcomes for our patients,” he explained. “Strategically coordinated integration provides the most value for local citizens.”

Gehant’s decision to merge BCH’s popular Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (BCSM) into a new facility on the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus is the latest expression of his consistent focus on strategic integration of services. The new CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center will unite the physicians and therapists of BCSM with physicians affiliated with the CU School of Medicine, creating clinical synergy rather than additional competition.

BCH’s continual growth during the Gehant era helped fuel and was, in turn, fueled by Boulder’s development into a high-profile hub for the booming technology and natural foods business sectors.

“Local leaders in other fields have told me repeatedly that BCH’s expansion and development has been critical to their growth and success. A community can’t attract entrepreneurs or talented employees for existing companies unless you can offer access to top quality health care,” Gehant said. “At the same time, the ongoing evolution of Boulder, the great schools, the wonderful restaurants and other lifestyle amenities, have been critically important to our efforts to recruit the finest doctors to come to Boulder.”

Gehant is justifiably proud of BCH’s national reputation for high quality, pointing to a 2014 Consumer Reports study that gave BCH the state’s top score in patient safety. That study, published in March of 2014, ranked BCH in the top 15 hospitals nationally.

Gehant has spent his entire career at non-profit organizations, and he is a passionate proponent of locally governed organizations like BCH.

“Regional and national health systems simply cannot tailor their services to meet local needs. It’s not in their organizational DNA,” Gehant said. “My over-riding goal has been to maintain BCH’s independence and our local Board of Directors. We’re now the only independent health system in Boulder County. We believe being totally focused on meeting local needs is one of our greatest strengths. For example, last year we provided $25 million in charity care to local citizens.

“We’ve pursued a consistent strategic approach that has expanded our range of services, improved our quality and built our financial strength,” he continued. “BCH’s net worth has increased from $22 million when I came in 1988 to more than $300 million today. That financial foundation is vital to maintaining our long-term independence.”

While Gehant’s chief focus has been strengthening local health care, he also brought an international outlook to BCH. In 1990, he launched the first of numerous medical outreach efforts that have sent Boulder physicians, nurses and other professionals on missions to improve medical services in Mexico, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Ukraine. BCH is currently ramping up plans to send medical teams to Haiti in the near future.

“We all take for granted the tremendous resources that are available for the sick and injured in a community like Boulder,” he said. “Too many people in poor parts of the world die from medical conditions that we handle routinely in Boulder. I felt we could and should help.”

Gehant’s impact goes beyond BCH. He served three terms as the chair of the Colorado Hospital Association Board of Trustees and has been a Board member for numerous Boulder organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Foothills United Way and YMCA.

Gehant has both a doctorate and master’s degrees in health care administration.