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CEO retiring from CRMC

Tom Reek, chief executive officer at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, h

CROSBY — After 37 years of service at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, chief executive officer Tom Reek recently announced his plans to retire. 

“It’s been a very difficult decision because this hasn’t been just a job, it’s been a passion,” said Reek.

But Reek said he’ll turn 65 in January and he’d like to spend more time with his two grandchildren, who live in Wisconsin. His wife, Nancy, was involved in a serious car accident last February, which also put things in perspective for them both. Nancy lost part of her kneecap in the crash and suffered a hand injury and internal injuries. 

Reek has many hobbies, including hunting, fishing, photography and traveling, but it’s the relationships in his life that he feels are the most important, including his family, friends and those relationships developed at work, by spending nearly four decades at the hospital system.

Originally from Michigan, Reek majored in institutional management at Michigan State. He enlisted in the Air Force and found himself working at the U.S. Air Force Regional Hospital in Minot, N.D., during the Vietnam War. His job was coordinating the return of wounded soldiers from the five-state area who were wounded in Vietnam back from the war zone. It was a difficult experience, to watch all these injured soldiers return from war who were his age, said Reek. 

After about 3-1/2 years in Minot, Reek was discharged from service and he began looking for a civilian job. His fellow airman, Ed Dahlberg, was hired as chief executive officer at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and he asked Reek if he’d be his assistant administrator. Reek, who knew this was a great area for hunting and fishing, jumped at the opportunity. Reek was named CEO in 1980. 

In 1974, when Reek joined CRMC, it had about 125 employees and about a $2 million annual budget. Today, the hospital system has 850 employees and a $130 million annual budget. Back in 1974, the clinic had five doctors. Now the medical campus has more than 40 physicians and specialists who come to the medical center on a regular basis to treat patients. The hospital, back in 1974, performed about 250 surgeries a year and now its surgeons perform more than 5,000 surgeries annually. 

CRMC is the largest employer on the Cuyuna Range and the sixth largest employer in Crow Wing County. The growing medical campus also includes the Longville Lakes Clinic, the Care Center, Hallett Cottages, Heartwood and Dellwood Apartments. The hospital system also partners with Central Lakes Medical Center, Crosby Eye Clinic, Minneapolis Heart Institute, Regional Diagnostic Radiology, Adult and Pediatric Urology, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute, Presbyterian Homes and Riverwood Healthcare Center to offer specialized services to the community. 

Reek said in the past senior citizens may have retired to the lakes area but continued to return to see their physicians in the Twin Cities metro area. This is changing as growing rural hospitals like Cuyuna offer more and more specialized services.

“People don’t have to travel to get the same kind of care,” said Reek.

Reek said the hospital was built in 1964 and the 50-bed nursing home was added in 1969. The first major hospital expansion project began in 1979. Other major hospital/clinic expansion projects took place in 2001 and 2008.

Reek said with the growth the medical center is projecting another expansion project in the next 3-5 years. The hospital is now in the early planning stages. 

Reek said when he looks back over the past 37 years he’s most proud of the relationships that have formed in the medical center, building trust within the community and ultimately resulting in improving health care for all the communities it serves. 

Reek said he enjoys getting a cup of coffee each morning and making his rounds around the medical center, chatting with employees and hospital visitors. 

“Visitors often are surprised at how friendly everyone is and the rapport we have with each other,” said Reek. “We kid each other. It’s a great environment for me to be in.”

Reek said the most frequent comments he receives are about employee service. In fact, the hospital was recently named in the Top 100 hospitals in the U.S. based on patient satisfaction data. 

Theresa Sullivan, chief operating officer at CRMC, said Reek’s leadership style has helped the hospital system become successful.

“He’s very approachable. He makes it fun to work. We work hard but we have fun,” said Sullivan. “His passion for the community, for the people we serve, is obvious and it’s something that becomes contagious. Tom likes to bring out the success in the people around him.”

“I’m fortunate to work in a system that helps people,” added Reek. “And that feels good.”

Reek said although he is retiring, the rest of his team is not. 

“We continue to grow, we continue to expand and look at new services. It’s a great opportunity for someone to come into this organization,” Reek said of his replacement.

Reek is on the board of directors for the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, as well as the Central Lakes College Advisory Board and Brainerd Lakes Chamber Board. In the mid-1980s Reek helped start Central Minnesota Diagnostics Inc., a non-profit cooperative that helps furnish imaging technology to hospitals. CMDI started when four hospitals banded together to purchase technology and now includes 65 hospitals. Reek serves as CMDI board chair. 

The hospital board has hired a search firm to find Reek’s replacement, a process that could take six to nine months. A search committee also will be formed. Reek said he’ll likely stay on until shortly after the new person is hired to help make a smooth transition.

JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 855-5858.