business matters
Ken DeFurio, president and CEO of Butler Health System, like many, started at the bottom and made the choice to climb. He said he wouldn't have reached the heights he has now without the help of the team around him.

Climbing to new heights

DeFurio's ascension at BHS aided by his team

Imagine ascending a steep set of steps without a handrail.

For Ken DeFurio, president and CEO of Butler Health System, reaching the top of the hierarchy could have felt like that, had it not been for a wonderful network of support from his colleagues.

“One hundred percent of my personal success is because of my team around me,” DeFurio said. “I need to have talent around me to have a good organization.”

Like many, DeFurio started at the bottom and made the choice to climb. In 1986, he joined Butler Health System at the ground level.

“I started as a staff respiratory therapist, taking care of patients at the bedside,” he said.

After a couple of years, DeFurio had an opportunity to fill a management position in Maryland, so he moved away, but in 1989, Butler invited him to be its manager of respiratory care.

While working full-time in 2000, DeFurio went back to school to earn his graduate degree. A short time later, DeFurio's first step into administrative duties came when he took over a new position as vice president of outpatient services. A few years later, he took over as chief operations officer.

“In 2006, almost 14 years ago, I became CEO,” he said. “It was an experience where you don't know much about it until you get there. It was an exciting time, and it was a time of uncertainty.”

Since his arrival at the top spot, DeFurio said he used his competitive nature to establish goals. He wanted BHS to compete with the big healthcare systems in the Pittsburgh market.

DeFurio said he did his best to boost people within his organization and added like-minded people to his team. He said the system's network of physicians, Butler Medical Providers, has reached 200 employed doctors and nearly 100 mid-level practitioners.

“We're the largest system between Pittsburgh and Erie, and we've remained independent along the way,” DeFurio said. “Not only have we held our own, we've excelled. It's been because of a lot of hard work and focus from a lot of really good people.”

Thomas A. Genevro, senior vice president of operations, said having a leader who values his employees not as grunts but as experts in their field is one way DeFurio maximizes the talent from his staff.

“He regularly stresses the importance of everyone having a role to play in success, that it's not just one person,” Genevro said. “It's that humble approach that has allowed him to be successful in leading our organization by way of providing us great autonomy in our roles while looking to the future needs of our community.”

Karen Allen, a registered nurse and chief nursing officer for BHS, works closely with the administration team. She said DeFurio's drive is present every time he rolls up his own sleeves.

She said the nursing leadership team had planned to work March 15 on expanding the Emergency Department and inpatient capacities as well as establishing care policies regarding COVID-19 treatments.

“Ken knew we had decided to come in and so he came in too,” Allen said. “He spent the day with us as we worked through the details.”

Bolstering personnel isn't the only moves made at BHS. In 2010, Butler Memorial added a high-tech intensive care unit, more operating rooms and family-oriented patient rooms in a new addition, dubbed the Tower.

BHS also expanded its outpatient facilities and in late 2019 added a second hospital to its network in Clarion Hospital.

BHS once held its reach to its hometown county, but has since expanded its presence into eight surrounding counties.

“Ken has been an integral part in expanding the breadth and depth of the acute and outpatient services we provide,” said Allen. “His focus on growing our presence in surrounding communities has increased the population we serve.”

DeFurio said the expansion has largely been a success, and he believes the move made sure the Clarion community was served properly during the pandemic, an issue that will continue to be a focal point for the organization moving forward.

He said COVID-19 has brought many challenges, but also many advances that will change the way medicine is done in the future for the better, things like telehealth and more developed protocols.

“We want to be a community health system that meets the needs of people wherever they are,” DeFurio said.

DeFurio and his wife, Tracey, of Butler Township, have one grown daughter, Alison (DeFurio) Annett, who is an occupational therapist, and a golden retriever, Maddie.

DeFurio, who was born at Butler Memorial Hospital and grew up in Indiana County, is a graduate of Indiana Area High School.

He earned his bachelor of science degree in respiratory therapty from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and his master of business administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

DeFurio's hobbies include cycling, running, hiking, water skiing and hockey.