One of the first things you’ll learn upon meeting Gerard van Grinsven is that he believes in building strong relationships. So much so, that he’ll even credit much of his success to the connections he’s built throughout the years.
The current president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) first figured out the importance of being personable at age 18 when he worked as a bartender in the Netherlands at a trendy social spot in Maastricht – the rich cultural city where he grew up and earned his bachelor’s degree in hotel management.
Then, when an ankle injury ended van Grinsven’s professional soccer career, he put his hospitality skills to use as a coffee shop manager in London.
Young and driven, van Grinsven would often say to hotel general managers, “Sir, I’d like to sit in your chair one day.” But, despite multiple interactions with recruiters, he was always told to “come back in five years.”
Van Grinsven wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, at 23 years old, he became one of the most successful restaurant leaders in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. He built his success by fostering relationships with leaders in the community and inviting them to his restaurant.
From there, he attained executive titles in the food and beverage industry, and hotel management, opening 20 Ritz-Carltons worldwide. He’s catered food for the King of Thailand and former President Ronald Reagan. He even saved a hotel guest who was shot by a sniper during a rebel attack in the Philippines.
It didn’t take long for health care leaders to notice that everything van Grinsven touched turned to gold. So in 2006, he became the president and CEO for Henry Ford Health System’s West Bloomfield Hospital in Michigan. He opened the 192-bed, feng shui-designed hospital in 2009. The patient-centered facility focused on the way clinical care is delivered, treating not only the illness, but the person’s overall wellness.
This passion is mirrored at CTCA, where physicians practice the Mother Standard of care – treating every patient like they’re your own mother. The organization is a national network of five cancer-care hospitals that specialize in the treatment of patients fighting complex or advanced-stage cancer.
Van Grinsven says he was able to successfully transition from luxury hotels to health care, where he takes care of a different type of “guest,” by incorporating the lesson he first learned as a bartender: the importance of relationships.
“I’m not in the business of health care, I’m in the business of relationships,” he says.
Now two years into his role, CTCA headquarters has moved to Boca Raton to improve research, medical programs and potential international partnerships. CTCA is responsible for the first hydroponic greenhouse in health care, providing fresh, organic food to its patients with cost-effectiveness in mind.
Van Grinsven, who lost his father to cancer about two years ago, is determined to bring custom hospitality to the health care industry to improve the quality of life during and after treatment for cancer patients and their families. This integrated approach is what the father of four hopes will become the norm in all health care facilities one day.
“I have high plans to make [CTCA’s] service go beyond what you ever have seen in health care,” van Grinsven says