May 2001

Meet the Leader of Unity Family HealthCare


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Carl Vaagenes, President and Chief Executive Officer
Unity Family HealthCare
Little Falls, Minn.



Carl Vaagenes, president and chief executive officer of Unity Family HealthCare, leads an organization that encompasses two hospitals, a long-term care facility, an independent living facility for seniors, a group home for developmentally disabled individuals, a behavioral health unit and home health care services.

"When you work in a rural setting, you don’t always have access to all the resources you need to stay on top of issues such as reimbursement, Joint Commission requirements and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations," said Vaagenes. "Catholic Health Initiatives gives us that access. We have the ability to make one phone call and get the help that we need."

Vaagenes recently joined Catholic Health Initiatives after nine years with Avera Health System, where he was chief executive officer of Pipestone County Medical Center in Pipestone, Minn. Prior to that, he served as chief executive officer of Keefe Memorial Hospital in Cheyenne Wells, Colo. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and is currently working toward a master’s degree in health care administration through the University of Minnesota. Vaagenes and his wife, Kirsten, an elementary educator, are parents to Levi, 5, and Maryn, 2.

Although Vaagenes recently attended the first meeting of Unity Family HealthCare’s new Mission and Values Committee, the organization has actively extended its mission into the Little Falls community for many years. Its healthy community initiatives include a Youth Achievement Program that provides recreational opportunities for children, which received a Mission and Ministry Fund grant, and an intervention program that provides assistance to victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.

Vaagenes notes that Little Falls has a strong history of Catholic health care. The convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls is located across the street from St. Gabriel’s Hospital, which is part of Unity Family HealthCare. "Catholic health care has been alive here for many years and is very important to the community," he said. "People appreciate the fact that the sisters still come to do volunteer work in the hospital."