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UNI chief wins Distinguished Hospital Executive Award

There was no crisis line, no evening programs for drug and alcohol abuse, and no outpatient clinics when Ross Van Vranken opened the 90-bed University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute in 1994. Things are different now.

Over the past two decades, Van Vranken, UNI's executive director since day one, has overseen its transformation into a 170-bed, full-service psychiatric and chemical abuse treatment hospital. In October, the Utah Hospital Association honored Van Vranken with the 2016 Distinguished Hospital Executive Award, which recognizes individuals who've made significant contributions to health care in our state.

"Ross Van Vranken is a trailblazer in Utah's behavioral health community," said Gordon Crabtree, C.P.A., M.B.A., chief executive officer of University of Utah Health Care Hospitals and Clinics. "The UHA is recognizing Ross for more than 26 years of leadership on issues related to mental health and substance abuse, which is a very challenging service area. Dedicated professionals like Ross are helping those afflicted with behavioral health issues to persevere and succeed in their long journey to wellness."

When asked what gives him the most pride about his tenure, Van Vranken said it's the culture of quality and service that UNI provides. The hospital has some of the highest patient satisfaction scores in the country.

"I think we've been a big asset to this community — we take all comers," Van Vranken said. "I'm also proud of the way everyone collaborates and works together."

Over the years, Van Vranken — who is responsible for strategic planning, physician recruitment, financial management and day-to-day operations— has played other roles too. He's worked with children with special needs, conducted family counseling, studied depression and taught graduate students in social work and the School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry.

Van Vranken, who currently chairs the UHA's Behavioral Health Committee, says one of the biggest problems in psychiatry is access to outpatient care. He's looking forward to a new UNI clinic opening in Farmington next month.

"We want to create a lot more access to psychiatry for the general public," he said.

The award was presented during UHA's Fall Leadership Conference at Deer Valley Resort. UHA is a private, not-for-profit trade association representing Utah's hospitals and health systems.