Profile: Lending a quiet hand -- Douglas Struyk, CEO, Christian Health Care Center

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Some professionals make a name for themselves by bounding onto the scene and becoming a prominent and perpetual blip on the industry radar screen.

Others opt for a more subtle approach, quietly but consistently working toward specific goals, lending an ear and support to those who need it. They're content being part of a quality ensemble cast. No clamoring for the lead necessary.
By all accounts, Douglas Struyk, the faith-driven president and CEO of Christian Health Care Center, belongs to the latter group. However, since being appointed as the sole long-term care member to the new federal Medicaid advisory commission -- as well as being named delegate to the 5th Congressional District of New Jersey for the White House Conference on Aging -- Struyk's name has been making headlines. It's clear he's officially reached A-list status.
"There are moments when all this can be overwhelming," Struyk (pronounced "strike") admits. "But it truly is an honor to be part of this and to be able to tell the story of [long-term care] the way I know it."
Struyk's story is an interesting one. After earning undergrad accounting and MBA degrees simultaneously, he landed an accounting position at Ernst & Young, where he performed audits for a broad range of clients, including CHCC. He developed such a good working relationship with leaders there, in 1990 he was hired as the organization's CFO and vice president of finance. Four years later, he added the title of CEO to his resume.
"CHCC was the only healthcare organization I had worked with," Struyk recalled. "So it was interesting how it all happened. Some would say it was being at the right place at the right time, but I call it providence." Genetics may have also played a partial role. His mother and sister are both registered nurses; his father and grandfather were both good with numbers, as a physics professor and math teacher, respectively.
Shortly after becoming CEO of the Wykoff, NJ-based company, he became a licensed nursing home administrator. He eagerly educated himself on long-term care policy, becoming actively involved in professional associations. He worked diligently to forge relationships with policy-makers at the state and national level.
"My background wasn't entrenched in healthcare, so I could approach things freshly and ask a lot of questions," he explains. "I had a lot to learn, so I just threw myself into it."
"I'm hands-on, but not in a micromanaging way," he says. "I like to know what's going on, but I also feel I have a role to empower staff to let their natural abilities and instincts come through. I realize the importance of working as a team."
It's those characteristics that should make him so valuable to the Medicaid commission.
"He's terrific for the job. He has been politically active and understands the issues at hand, both from a financial and resident-care perspective," said Paul Langevin, president of the Health Care Association of New Jersey. Struyk chairs the New Jersey association's legislative committee and also has served on the budget and finance committees for Washington-based American Health Care Association and the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
The fact that AHCA, the National Center for Assisted Living and AAHSA jointly nominated Struyk for selection to the Medicaid Commission says volumes about his reputation.
Langevin said Struyk's lack of pretention and willingness to ask difficult questions make him a good fit for the tough tasks that lie ahead: "He's a breath of fresh air in a world full of egos."
While Struyk is eager to espouse his views on expanding senior care options in a financially responsible way, he stressed that his primary role in life is "being a simple family man." He said he loves spending time with his wife of 21 years, Vicky, and their daughters, who are 8 and 4 years old.
He also pointed out that, despite his growing list of professional duties, he is committed to staying closely connected with CHCC's staff and residents.
"Keeping that front-line connection fresh and available to me is what drives my passion," he said, "and will make me all the more effective at [representing the industry] at