Introducing Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s New CEO

Introducing Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s New CEO

On August 26th Kate Surbaugh officially stepped into her new role of CEO after 2 months of working beside former CEO, Rita Plourde, to ensure the transition of leadership went smoothly. Kate took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions on her life in and out of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic.

What brought you to Cook County?

I first moved to Cook County in 1995, fresh out of college to work at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters in Tofte. From there I moved on to Ely to guide dogsledding trips and after that spent a couple years in Minneapolis. My husband and I realized that we didn’t like the city and decided that Grand Marais was calling us. We moved back permanently in 2002.

How long have you been working at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and in what roles?

I started at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in 2013 as a floor/float nurse. Soon, I was filling in as the triage nurse, too. In 2016, I took over as the Clinical Nurse Manager when Teresa Borak started planning her leave of absence and then her retirement.

Why did you decide to apply for the CEO position?

I actually did a lot of soul-searching before I applied. I knew that the CEO role would take me away from face-to-face patient care, and I love being a nurse. However, I realized that I felt called to be a nurse because I wanted to help people in my community. While I might no longer help face-to-face, the CEO role allows me to help in a broader and possibly longer-term way.

What do you look forward to in your new role at the clinic?

I am very excited to continue to build on this wonderful base created by former CEO Rita Plourde. The Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has become the healthcare home for an entire county, as well as a strong collaborator with other local organizations. As great as it is, I think there is still much more the clinic and the community can do to promote health across all ages and stages of life.

What does your life look like outside of work?

We have three children ages 17, 14 and 12 and I love to spend time with them at home or cheering on one of their many sports such as biking, swimming, dancing, skiing and track. We have a homestead just west of Grand Marais where we raise goats and chickens along with two dogs and a cat. I also like to bike, hike and garden when I find the time.

Any other interesting tidbits about your career that you want to share?

Shortly before I applied for the CEO position, I finished my Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) at St. Scholastica in Duluth. This program had a strong Public Health component and involved coursework studying the health of our own communities. It was really valuable in helping me both understand how healthcare works in Cook County and how I can help promote it through Sawtooth Mountain Clinic.

All of us here at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic are thrilled for our coworker’s professional achievement and to see a familiar face in the CEO’s office. We are thankful for the Board of Directors, the CEO search committee and all others involved in the thorough search and interview process. We know Kate will continue to do incredible work for the clinic and the community. 

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