Published on July 22, 2022

An Interview with Dr. Jon Pryor

jon prior smiling for camera

“The Foundations make us special, and I want to thank you for all the good work you do. This is the stuff that oftentimes moves us from good to great," Dr. Jon Pryor said. 

Where are you from originally and how long have you worked for Essentia? 

I was born in Hartford, Connecticut but I really grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. After getting my education, I settled in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where my wife and kids grew up. I have been with Essentia for 3 years. 

Why did you choose to become a physician? 

After I graduated from high school, I needed a good job to attend college. I found a nursing assistant position, so I applied. I took a test, got the job—and after two weeks of training, I was working as a Nursing Assistant at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center. 

That summer was my first exposure to medicine, and I decided becoming a physician was really something I wanted to do. So, I entered college that year as a Physics Major and Pre-Medicine. 

How did you go about finding your specialty? 

I am a urologist by training, but I like virtually all medicine. I liked urology because I felt it was a good combination of surgery and general medicine and was a field that you could do little procedures and big procedures. And it was a field where you could really make a difference in people’s lives. All of that appealed to me. 

What drew you to a role in leadership and administration? And you still practice medicine today, correct? 

Actually, at this point in my career I am a full-time administrator. I have always been guided to make the world a better place. There are not a lot of physicians who have both leadership experience in a business background. I could be more impactful by going this route than by treating patients one at a time. So, I decided to switch from more of a clinician to be more a physician administrator. 

What do you think makes Essentia life “like nowhere else”? 

I think the big thing is that Essentia Health is really good at execution. We are really good at getting things done. Because of that, we are a winning team. And it is always fun being on a winning team. 

How do you see Essentia Health’s Mission in action? 

I think there are a couple of ways. One of our aspirational aims is to have a healthy and vital community. Much of the work to get there happens outside the walls of the clinic and hospital. In particular, our Community Relations Specialist Tonya Loken and Community Health Director Emily Kuenstler are both intimately involved with the social determinants of health and getting upstream to where patients need us. It is the work that they do that shows our mission in action. 

Another was our response to COVID-19. We went from 0 to 60 with Telehealth; we virtually hadn’t done it before COVID-19, and within two months we were leaders in the State. Additionally, we really pulled together our regional colleagues at non-Essentia hospitals to say how can we help each other. We were the ones that led that mission. I think the state looked at us as leaders in terms of vaccinations, anti-virals and immunoglobulin therapy. I think that we’re really perceived as a leader in the community and the state. We were in uncharted territory during that very difficult time. 

Finally, the kudos that we give before every meeting really illustrates how deep our mission is, and it shows that our employees go above and beyond to embrace this mission. 

Which of Essentia Health’s Values is most important? 

I love them all, but teamwork is the most important. The physicians are important, but our success is really from all of our 14,000 employees. Everyone is important to the success we have. 

It does not matter how talented a surgeon is—without environmental services cleaning the operating rooms, without nursing to assist, without equipment sterilization, and revenue cycle collecting the billing, you are not really a success. Teamwork is my most important value. 

What do you think is most special about each of the East Communities where there is a Foundation? 

Duluth/Superior Community: I would say the lake, as well as the fact that the community and families embrace the outdoors and all four seasons. 

Moose Lake: It’s a quaint, beautiful lake community. 

Virginia: It’s a community on the move. They are doing things and are very active. 

Brainerd: They are the vacation capital of the world. The town has one of the top 100 hospitals in America. 

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I have a wonderful wife, a bunch of kids and 9 grandkids I love spending time with. I play the violin and enjoy cooking. And I do martial arts. 

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

The Foundations make us special, and I want to thank you for all the good work you do. This is the stuff that oftentimes moves us from good to great.

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