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Dr. Hilary Rockwell to replace Ekeren as top administrator at Avera Queen of Peace

Transition to take place over next nine months

The Avera Queen of Peace campus in Mitchell. (Republic file photo)
The Avera Queen of Peace campus in Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic File Photo
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MITCHELL — New leadership is coming to Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, but it will come in the form of a familiar face.

Dr. Hilary Rockwell, who serves as the chief medical officer at the hospital in Mitchell, will take over as Doug Ekeren, current regional president and CEO of the hospital, will transition out of the role next year. He will continue to serve as regional president and CEO of the Avera Sacred Heart region that includes the Yankton hospital of the same name and the surrounding facilities.

Rockwell, who first joined Avera Queen of Peace in July 2014, is expected to take over the position July 1. She currently serves as an emergency medicine physician at Avera Queen of Peace and has served as chief medical officer since March of 2020. She was among the first graduates of Avera’s Dyad Leadership Academy in 2021 and has been a regular voice on the Mitchell leadership team.

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Community is stronger when ‘we invest in people,’ officials say.

The Dyad Leadership Academy builds and improves the working relationship between administrators and physicians. Participants receive leadership training and develop professional relationships with colleagues from across the Avera system.

Rockwell is a relatively well-known figure in the Mitchell community, having served as one of the public voices for the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Rockwell said she was ready for the new challenge and was looking forward to the opportunity to lead, and she thanked Ekeren for the mentorship she said he continues to provide.

“Avera Queen of Peace Hospital has a rich 116-year history in Mitchell since the Presentation Sisters accepted the request to build what was then St. Joseph’s Hospital. I will honor that legacy and seek ways we can continue to respond to the evolving health care needs of our community,” Rockwell said. “We have a dedicated team, and I am proud of the work they do every day. Our patients and residents today and in the future are depending on us, and we will continue to answer that calling.”

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Dr. Hilary Rockwell
Submitted Photo

As part of the transition, Ekeren and Rockwell will be working closely over the next nine months to ensure a smooth transition of leadership, Avera officials said.

“I know Dr. Rockwell is prepared for this challenge and will foster continuing success for Avera Queen of Peace,” Avera President and CEO Bob Sutton said in a statement. “Doug has done an incredible job of advancing the needs of both the Avera Sacred Heart and Avera Queen of Peace regions the last two years. I am grateful for all he has done, and all he will continue to do for our health care ministry.”

Ekeren was named the interim regional president and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace, in addition to maintaining his role at Avera Sacred Heart in Yankton, in July 2020, stepping into the role previously held by Tom Clark, who was named the Chief Strategy and Growth Officer for Avera in 2020.

Ekeren became the permanent regional president and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace in August 2021.

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Doug Ekeren
Submitted Photo

Ekeren said he had thoroughly enjoyed working with the board members, employees and providers at Avera Queen of Peace.

“Working with this talented and engaged group of people has been rewarding on a personal and professional level, and I am grateful for the trust put in me,” Ekeren said. “I believe we made significant strides that will help maintain the stability of our healthcare ministry for years to come.”

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Clark, who joined Avera’s executive leadership team at the time of his departure from Avera Queen of Peace, guides the health system’s strategic priorities in alignment with its vision for the future.

Avera has announced similar transition changes earlier this year to have separate regional president and CEO positions for Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in Aberdeen and Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre. That stems from the challenges facing modern health care as well as the needs of the communities in which its regional hospitals are based. Avera leadership officials have stated they believe the approach will be beneficial to the organization and to the people it serves.

Along with Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, the Avera Queen of Peace region includes Avera De Smet Memorial Hospital in De Smet, Avera St. Benedict Hospital in Parkston and Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital in Wessington Springs.

Related Topics: AVERA HEALTHMITCHELLHEALTH
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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