Carson City Hospital president and CEO steps down after 32 years

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 3:45 pm on Monday, December 19, 2011

Bruce Traverse sits at his desk during his final month as president and CEO of Carson City Hospital just before celebrating his final Christmas party with employees in mid-December. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Bruce Traverse is getting a big gift for Christmas this year — a lot more free time.

He is retiring on Friday after working 32 years at Carson City Hospital, the last 25 as the president and CEO.

“When you dedicate your life to a career, you look forward to retirement. But I’m going to miss my time here at Carson City Hospital,” Traverse said. “This hospital is a part of me and I will miss the people, the patients, the physicians and the day-to-day experiences of working at a job I love.”

He is leaving with fond memories created over the years leading the hospital through substantial growth.

“Although I look forward to pursing new projects in my life, Carson City Hospital will always hold a place in my heart,” Traverse said.

Leader from the start

From his early as days as a teenager, Traverse has always strived to obtain some a position of leadership.

In high school, Traverse was president of the student council at Escanaba High School during his senior year. When attending Ferris State University, he co-created the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the college with three other students and served as the fraternity’s first president.

“I guess you could say I’m one of the four founding fathers,” Traverse said. “After a visit to Madison, Wis., I noticed we didn’t have a Ferris chapter of the fraternity so I set out to establish it. I guess you could say the desire to be a leader is in my blood.”

Orderly to administrator

Traverse began his work in health care when he worked a summer job as an orderly at Sparrow Health in Lansing during his senior year of college.

“It was just a summer job and I learned very quickly I didn’t want to pursue a career as a physician,” Traverse said. “But I’ve always had an interest in health care.”

After earning a bachelor of science in business administration at Ferris State University in 1968, Traverse was hired as the assistant director of nursing administration at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. After four years there, he moved on to Lansing General Hospital in 1972 as the hospital’s administrative assistant.

During his time at Lansing General, Traverse earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Detroit in 1974.

Traverse held his position at Lansing General until 1979, when he moved on to Carson City Hospital as the facility’s administrative assistant.

Former administrator Donald McKenna retired as Carson City Hospital’s administrator in 1982. Traverse was promoted to replace him.

The hospital’s board restructured the facility’s management in 1986, naming Traverse the newly created title of president and CEO.

Boom years

Traverse has overseen significant growth at the helm of Carson City Hospital.

The most noticeable is an $18 million expansion completed in three phases from 2005 through 2008. The project reconfigured most areas of the hospital, doubled the Emergency Department size, added a new office building and rehabilitation center and a new MRI machine.

Traverse is most proud of the technological improvements the hospital has made over time.

“We’ve been very fortunate to be the leader in technology,” he said. “Our most recent addition, the Da Vinci surgical machine, is a great example of how the hospital has continued to strive to be a leader in the industry. We’re only the third small hospital in Michigan with the Da Vinci system and I’m very proud of that accomplishment.”

Traverse said the hospital also has been a leader in switching to electronic medical records.

“It’s been mandated by the Health Care Reform Act that all hospitals have their health records stored electronically by 2015, but we’re already way ahead of the game,” he said.

Assistant Director of Nursing Jodie Diaz said being the top administrator has been more than a job to Traverse.

“It’s been his passion,” Diaz said. “Bruce’s touch is seen throughout this hospital every single day. From the quality medical staff he has brought on board to the upgrades in diagnostic equipment. He has always wanted what was best for our hospital’s employees, our patients and our whole community.”

Passionate fundraiser

Traverse has a passion for music. His interest in music eventually led to the creation of the “Summer Dance Party” at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant every year.

“We’ve done the dance party 12 years now,” Traverse said. “We’ve brought in some of the best talent from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s rock scene. It’s a great event that is not only fun for everyone but raises money for the hospital as well.”

Traverse said the event has grown to include 2,000 people in attendance.

“We’ve been able to buy a lot of equipment for the hospital with the money collected from that annual event,” he said. “To be able to combine my joy of music with raising money for the hospital, it’s just something I continue to look forward to every year.”

Bruce Traverse, center, stands with his two sons, Bryce, left, and Derek, while enjoying a family ski trip in Val d’Isère, France, in 2008. — Courtesy photo

Skier at heart

Traverse’s other great passion is skiing. He has spent much of his vacation time skiing mountains from California and Colorado to half a world away in Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France.

“You have to have a passion to be able to do that,” he said. “It’s a fun sport and as long as I’m physically able I’ll continue to do it.”

Traverse plans to continue that passion in retirement. He plans to live in Boyne City, spending much of his time on Lake Charlevoix and traveling internationally as much as he can.

“I’ll be living just six miles from Boyne Mountain, so I can continue to ski as much as my heart desires,” he said. “I still hope to make a few trips overseas, but we’ll see where life takes me.”

Traverse said he will also continue to stay active with Carson City Hospital in his retirement as an emeritus board member.

“I won’t have a vote on the board, but it’s nice to know I can still contribute with my ideas and opinions,” he said.

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