Dean Kaster, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health
An admitted die-hard Green Bay Packers fan and a native of Wisconsin, Dean Kaster’s demeanor reflects both the friendliness and the modesty of the Midwest. Retired from his position as senior vice president of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in February of this year, Kaster was instrumental in the many changes that have catapulted Upper Chesapeake Health and its affiliates into the next generation of health care.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have been at Upper Chesapeake and work with Lyle Sheldon and the Board of Directors,” Kaster says. “There is tremendous energy on the campus. It’s something very special. The people are passionate about what they do.”
Kaster noted that organization leaders set the tone. After working with six different CEOs throughout his career, Kaster says he, himself, has evolved as a collaborative, team-oriented manager. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to develop people who work for me,” he says. He also notes, “Health care needs more women in top positions. I admire strong women who grow and are successful in their careers.”
His support of his employees, along with his self-identified personal qualities of patience and tolerance for ambiguity, are important elements of his professional success. “In business development the pathway is not straight or even. Long-term projects go on for many years. You have to accept that and keep moving forward,” he says. In addition, Kaster explains, due to health care regulation in Maryland, many hospital reimbursement projects require state approval that can take well over a year to obtain.
Kaster’s patience paid off over the last decade, as he assisted in several long-term projects being brought to fruition. He played an important role in the merger between Upper Chesapeake Health and University of Maryland Medical System. Those discussions began early in his tenure in 2007, resulting in an affiliation agreement in 2009, with the full merger finalized in 2013. He says some of the future initiatives to be pursued include exploring ways to maximize this merger for economies of scale, additional specialty programs development and access to capital for future expansions.
While Kaster came to Upper Chesapeake with a full array of successes under his belt – including the opening of a 60-bed heart hospital facility that offered the complete spectrum of cardiology services at Wheaton Franciscan Health System – he lists the opening of the Kaufman Cancer Center at Upper Chesapeake as one of his biggest accomplishments. “That was a great success for the community. It was really needed,” he says. He began working on the development of the multi-disciplinary Kaufman Cancer Center in 2009. The Center opened its doors in 2013, complete with specialists from surgery, oncology/hematology and radiation oncology “under the same roof,” as well as an easy-access drop-off and pick-up area for patients and families.
One of Kaster’s biggest challenges has been managing the physical growth of the 50-acre Bel Air campus. “The land is not square, it’s elongated, so we’ve had to be very strategic about our growth both vertically and horizontally,” he says. The five-story parking garage and medical office building with access to the Klein Ambulatory Care Center building, the three-story east bed tower and the remote employee parking lots with shuttle service are new within the last 10 years. The organization is currently remodeling and expanding the laboratory, imaging and cardiac departments.
Kaster leaves a plan for future initiatives that takes the organization through 2020. One of the most significant strategic initiatives will be the implementation of a regional vision for health care services in northeast Maryland through a partnership with Union Hospital in Elkton. UM Upper Chesapeake Health will be committing $180 million toward the vision. This will include a new medical campus at I-95 and Route 155 in Havre de Grace to replace many of the services at the aging Harford Memorial Hospital and a three-story vertical expansion above the Kaufman Cancer Center in Bel Air.
Kaster has pinpointed increased involvement in population health as a priority. “We need to move the walls of the hospital into the community with a much greater emphasis on prevention and wellness,” he says. “That includes providing alternatives for preventive health care, working with Healthy Harford and other ambulatory services.” Healthy Harford is a community-based coalition of local businesses, non-profits and citizens dedicated to encouraging the healthy, active lifestyles of Harford County residents.
As Kaster’s career winds down, he’ll keep an active lifestyle, as well. His plans include consulting, training and relaxing. He says he hopes to consult in the health care industry and to do training courses for the American College of Healthcare Executives. His relaxing activities are some of his current hobbies – reading, golf, and watching the Packers. He is also taking up a new interest – photography. He plans to start using his brand new camera on his retirement kick-off trip to Aruba. I95