GREEN BAY — Brian Charlier, the new president and CEO of HSHS St. Vincent Hospital and HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center, never specifically planned on a career in health care, but it has definitely met the goal he set in college.
“I knew that I wanted to be in a role where I could help people and serve people,” he said. “I’m sure it’s because of the way I was raised. My plan was, ‘If I provide good value, good things will happen.’”
Charlier, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW-Green Bay, began his new position on Jan. 1. For the past two years he has served as chief operating officer for St. Vincent and St. Mary’s as well as Prevea Health. Along with his new role as president, he will continue to serve as COO of Prevea.
“I’ve been with the system for 21 years,” he explained. “I started with Prevea. In 1997, I was working on my master’s and was doing a snapshot about health care in Green Bay. I was trying to understand why Green Bay had the lowest cost for health care in the state, and, at that time, some of the lowest costs in the nation. That’s because there was no duplication of services.”
While conducting interviews with health care leaders, he was asked by Ron Menaker of Prevea to submit his resume. A couple months later he was offered a job, so he left his position at Bellin Health.
Charlier’s health care roots precede his professional career. He grew up three blocks from St. Vincent Hospital and Bellin Hospital, where he worked in the kitchen during high school. His parents worked at St. Vincent. His mother, Lois, worked in the print shop. His father, Deacon Earl Charlier, served as director of pastoral care at the hospital.
“A lot of what I learned about being a leader, I learned from my family through osmosis, not even knowing it,” said Charlier. “There was a child, 3 or 4 years old from Northern Michigan, going through chemotherapy. They had no place to stay so my dad just opened up our house. I got kicked out of my bedroom. It was just what we did. It was about helping people. My dad did that numerous times. I learned that you are here to help support others and serve others.”
The strength of the hospitals and Prevea is the people, said Charlier. He recently met with two new employees who started three months ago or less.
“We call our staff ‘colleagues,’” he said. “I asked them, in addition to what we need to do better, ‘What makes us special?’ Both said the passion and the drive to take care of our patients. They knew there was passion here, but they can’t believe how much passion the people have. That’s so rewarding for me to hear.
“My favorite time is going out and talking to the colleagues and finding out what is going well and what needs improvement,” he added. “How do we support our teams? Our job as leaders is to make sure they have what they need to be successful.”
Keeping up with continuous changes in health care is among the challenges. Charlier explained that there is a shift from episodic care where when people get sick, you treat them, to promoting health and wellness to prevent illness.
“It really fits into our Franciscan mission,” he said. “We want to help the well-being of people. How do we keep people healthy? How do we get ahead of that curve with chronic disease, obesity and opioid use in this area? I work with our physicians on prevention and on the hospital side we need to make sure they have the tools to take care of their patients.”
Staying updated with technology is another way to keep up with changes in health care. Charlier noted that the use of new 3T (Tesla) MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) equipment will begin in February at St. Vincent. He also pointed to advancements in neurological care for patients who have suffered strokes. Clots are pulled out of the brain with a catheter and patients are able to walk out of the hospital only days later.
While responding to changes, the mission of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, who arrived in the area in 1888 to provide health care, will remain.
“We spend a lot of time looking at the mission,” said Charlier. “We actually meet with our sisters in Springfield (Illinois). They come up here once a year. We make sure we are following through. I do orientations for all the new colleagues. I tell them, ‘If you forget everything else, don’t forget this. We are here to serve the patients.’ We serve this community and all those who need us. We see a lot of patients who do not have the financial means. That’s pretty much our mission.”
Charlier and his wife, Tammy, have two adult daughters, two granddaughters and another one on the way. He grew up as a member of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Green Bay and now belongs to SS. Edward and Isidore Parish, Flintville.
A Mass in celebration of Charlier’s new position was held on Jan. 22 in the chapel at St. Vincent Hospital. Bishop David Ricken presided. The liturgy provided time for reflection, especially remembrance of his parents, said Charlier. Lois died in 2004. Deacon Charlier died in 2013.
“Walking through the halls, I think about them,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in my dad’s office and the chapel. The chapel was his home. I feel like he’s looking down on me.”