Rachelle Schultz

Leads Winona Health with an Innovative Spirit
By Erin Pagel

About 50 miles east of Rochester, the city of Winona is nestled among sculpted bluffs and the fabled Mississippi river. It’s a city with traditional charm and character along with a growing sense of urbanity. Winona boasts an active art scene and abundant natural beauty, ready to be explored. This year, Winona celebrates 125 years of community-focused health care services at its homegrown hospital, Winona Health. 

It’s no small task to keep a hospital running for 125 years. Health care and what patients expect from their care have changed greatly since 1894. Winona Health has demonstrated unwavering commitment to the community, growing and advancing to meet the changing needs of the people it serves. For the last 17 years, Rachelle Schultz has served as president and chief executive officer of Winona Health, overseeing the hospital, multiple clinics, a nursing home, assisted living residences and other related health care services. She leads with an innovative and community-driven approach, keeping focus on patients while striving for continuous improvement and team development. Schultz notes that Winona Health is the first point of health care access for many people across the Winona area and that the hospital is pleased to a part of the Winona community.

Schultz has been in the health care industry for over 30 years and has a varied background with a community focus. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics, a master’s degree in Health Care Administration and a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership. She has a presence on national and local stages, serving on multiple boards, groups and initiatives, all working to improve health care and its delivery. In short, Schultz has a broad range of knowledge and a unique perspective, and she actively works to advance Winona Health and the communities it serves.

Schultz is credited with many accomplishments in her tenure as CEO. Individually she has received national recognition for significant leadership and improving health care delivery. Winona Health has been recognized nationally for quality and safety and is ranked among the Top 100 U.S. Rural and Community Hospitals in the nation. “Organizations are really functions of their people. The most important role of the CEO is the development of people,” says Schultz. “These are great people.”

Women are often the health decision-makers for themselves and their families. Winona Health’s Inspiring Women and Sparkle programs seek to engage and encourage women by providing accurate health information and opportunities for mothers, daughters, sisters and friends to gather while learning about health and wellness. “These programs create awareness and engagement around health care issues impacting women, their children and their spouses,” says Schultz. The information provided by Winona Health physicians and other experts is always pertinent and timely for women.

Schultz leads with an innovative spirit and preference toward action, as demonstrated by Winona Health’s various partnerships and initiatives. She explains, “Cost and access are big issues in health care. There are services we can deliver at a much lower cost. We can provide expanded access for patients and are experimenting with ways to broaden and shift our health care delivery system. We are keeping our patient focus and leveraging technology.”

Schultz’s words echo in Winona Health’s recent launch of SmartExam online virtual visits. The program allows patients to access health care providers without even leaving their homes, through an online clinic visit. Patients can connect and even send pictures to a health care provider who will respond electronically. For the patient, the program may mean no coordination of transportation or time off work to get expert answers and a treatment plan from Winona Health health care providers. For Winona Health, the program means serving patients in a new way.

Another thoughtful and innovative program is the Winona Health initiative providing on-site sale of medical equipment, including walkers and canes, breast pumps and compression wear. Under Schultz’s leadership, Winona Health has opened a new storefront adjacent to the hospital that provides these products. The store offers an array of equipment patients need for improved quality of life outside the hospital, serving patients with products, answers to questions and the convenience of the store location.

This autumn, patients will find yet another new way to connect with health care providers. Winona Health’s Main Street Clinic will be a new physical space in downtown Winona. Schultz promises the clinic will “provide a different experience for the patient, not traditional health care.”

Community partnerships are an important part of how Winona Health continues to innovate and evolve. The organization has a long-standing history of partnering with local businesses and nonprofits. Under Schultz’s leadership, Winona Health is collaborating with the Winona Family YMCA to capitalize on each organization’s strengths and increase community health. Next spring, a new Winona Family YMCA building will open on the hospital campus. The building will house Winona Health’s rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and even massage therapy.

The shared space will leverage strengths of the hospital and the Winona Family YMCA to serve patients and community members in a manner neither could do alone. In the new space, patients undergoing rehabilitation will be able to easily continue their journey to improved wellness. The close proximity of the two groups will improve outcomes and patient/community experience, without duplicating resources. The partnership serves the Winona community and the complementary missions of both groups.

Being successful in health care means constant evolution, serving many different needs and listening to patients. Schultz strives to recognize and capitalize on opportunities to innovate and partner to meet the evolving needs of patients and the Winona community. What the younger generations look for is different from what the older generations look for. “We don’t act our age of 125 years,” says Schultz. “We are very unique and agile. We are vibrant, advancing with the times, evolving with the needs of the community.”

Erin Pagel is a freelance writer living and working in Rochester.