Magazine Feature / People

Alumna’s career takes her from operating rooms to board rooms

Ruth Nauts (EMBA ’01) is optimistic about the future of health care in America. That’s rather comforting given that she intimately knows the challenges ahead thanks to her dual roles as an orthopedic surgeon and as a medical business administrator.

Nauts works for Kaiser Permanente and, in April, she will become the regional orthopedic department chief for Kaiser’s Colorado practices. This is just the latest step in a journey that has taken Nauts into both operating rooms and board rooms of various Colorado medical enterprises.

Nauts says she enjoys medicine because she likes “hands-on fixing things.” That instinct to fix things also inspired Nauts to pursue a business degree at the University of Denver in the late 1990s.

“The health care issues that Hillary Clinton was bringing to the fore made me realize that some of us in medicine needed to understand business language and processes,” she says, adding that the experience gave her a new perspective on health care.

“I thought health care should look like a not-for-profit, multi-specialty medical community big enough to support a technology infrastructure so that we could all communicate. I looked around and said, ‘Wow, I just described Kaiser!’”

Not long after that epiphany, Nauts left private practice to join Kaiser. She also has worked with other hospitals in the area to share her medical/business perspective, and she’s joined the board of the Colorado Health Foundation.

“Ruth has continued to take on roles that look at medicine in a much broader view rather than the narrowly structured practice of medicine,” says Wagner Schorr, a retired nephrologist who has known Nauts for 25 years. “With all her business background, she understands both sides of the equation.”

Nauts is optimistic for the future of health care, but she also is realistic.

“We do have millions without any coverage and no way to afford what American health care can provide,” she says. “That part is very sad. There won’t be any easy answers.”

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