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Blackhawk Honors Alumni of the Year, Shawn Lerch

December 19, 2019
Alumni of the Year: Shawn Lerch

Blackhawk Technical College is pleased to honor Shawn Lerch with the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award. Lerch is currently the CEO of Sauk Prairie Healthcare located in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.

He is a living testimony to the foundation for success that is provided by a Wisconsin Technical College System education. A native of Albany, Wisconsin and a veteran of the United States Navy, Lerch has used his degree in Physical Therapy Assistant to launch him into a lifelong career in rural healthcare.

Blackhawk Technical College PTA faculty member Ilene Larson recommended Lerch for this honor. She said, “Shawn was a stellar student in the PTA Program and he has had an interesting career path. He is a good example of how someone can start in a technical college setting and climb the career ladder to contribute to the well-being of patients as a hospital administrator.”

During his PTA program at Blackhawk, Lerch completed his last clinical site rotation and externship at Columbus Hospital. It was clear to the hospital leadership that Lerch demonstrated talent and promise, so he was hired as a PTA. While working as a PTA, Lerch completed his Bachelor of Science degree and was later promoted to Vice President of Facility Services. As an employee, he was consistently recognized for his ability, background, and potential.

Lerch went on to complete his master’s degree in health care administration and made the leap to the CEO desk at Miners’ Colfax Medical Center in Raton, New Mexico; a large hospital that provided critical care between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Pueblo, Colorado. After five years in Raton, and being offered positions at larger healthcare systems, Lerch returned to Wisconsin to be closer to his family and to be part of a community-based health system.

Under Lerch’s leadership, Sauk Prairie Healthcare was named a 2018 Guardian of Excellence Award® winner by Press Ganey. The Guardian of Excellence Award recognizes top-performing health care organizations that have achieved the 95th percentile or above of performance in Patient Experience. The award is a nationally-recognized symbol of achievement in health care. Presented annually, the award honors clients who consistently sustained performance in the top 5% of all Press Ganey clients for each reporting period during the course of one year.  

Another testament to Lerch’s leadership excellence is the Advisory Board 2018 Workplace of the Year Award. The annual award recognizes hospitals and health systems nationwide that have outstanding levels of employee engagement. Sauk Prairie Healthcare was one of 20 organizations nationwide to receive the award.

From technical college student to CEO, Lerch credits his start at Blackhawk and the PTA faculty for jumpstarting his career in health care. “Blackhawk stressed the importance of how you are an integral part of patient care. I have carried that through all my roles in health care. Once you understand your why and you enjoy what you do, everything gets easier after that.”

Ilene Larson adds, “Shawn is most deserving of this award. He has worked hard to advance his career as well as rural health care in Wisconsin, and is a shining example of a Wisconsin Technical College System success story.”

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