In December 2018, Summit Pacific Medical Center welcomed a new leader to the team. John Elsner embarked on a dual role as both Director of Development and Community Relations and Executive Director of the Summit Pacific Medical Foundation.

Summit Pacific John Elsner
John Elsner joined Summit Pacific in late 2018 as the new Executive Director of the Summit Pacific Medical Foundation and the Director of Development and Community Relations. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific

Elsner hit the ground running with the opening of the expansive new Wellness Center in January. In just a few short months, he has immersed himself in the community. “I couldn’t be happier,” says Elsner. “I find the passion and the vision and the trajectory here as compelling as any company I’ve seen anywhere.”

For Elsner, this position meant a homecoming. The youngest of nine children, he grew up on Black Lake surrounded by a large extended family with deep roots in the area. Trained as an attorney, he worked abroad and in Washington, D.C. for many years. He brings with him extensive experience in nonprofits and fundraising, as well as in education, government and business development.

“I have a passion for community development,” explains Elsner. “I think, increasingly, that, in order to live healthy lives, people need to focus on having a stake in their local communities. Being part of that here is truly exciting.”

That passion for community fits right in with the mission of the Medical Foundation to create hope, health and healing for the community. In fact, the vision Elsner and the Foundation are promoting is to help the hospital district become the healthiest community in the nation. That bold vision has become a driving force for the hospital and staff.

Commitment to Wellness and Patient Experience

Summit Pacific Elsner Childrens Area
A starry sky adds to the ambience of the children’s play area. Both the indoor and outdoor play areas are open to the public. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific

The Summit Pacific Wellness Center provides a host of services in a sparkling new facility located just behind the Medical Center in Elma. “The fact that the Wellness Center is 60,000 square feet, while the hospital itself is just 40,000 square feet, is not accidental,” says Elsner. “It reflects Summit’s commitment to wellness.”

In many respects, “health care” has come to mean “sick care.” In addition, a needs assessment of Grays Harbor County found that the county ranks poorly in the state in areas of alcoholism, obesity, smoking and other areas that affect well-being. The focus of the new center is to change that trajectory and help people focus on health and well-being throughout their entire lives.

Changing that perspective starts with a positive patient experience. To that end, the Wellness Center provides a variety of services, including:

  • Physical therapy, with an emphasis on transitioning patients to healthy lifestyles in their everyday lives.
  • An entire floor dedicated to a primary care clinic with an innovative, team-based environment that focuses on patient privacy and timely care.
  • East County HealthMart Pharmacy, offering weekend hours, able to fill prescriptions seven days a week.
  • Climbing wall and multipurpose room available for community use.
  • Summit Pacific Elsner Cafe
    The café at Summit Pacific Wellness Center offers delicious meals and cooking classes in addition to coffees and snacks. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific

    Café and coffee bar open to the public.

  • Indoor and outdoor play areas for children.
  • Fitness trail with adult exercise equipment.
  • Education rooms and full-service conference facilities with the capability of providing distance learning.

For instance, on a summer day, parents can order coffee or lunch at the café and eat it on the outdoor plaza while watching their children play on the splash pad. Businesses can conduct team-building events on the climbing wall in place of holding a happy hour.

Community Development

For Elsner and Summit Pacific Medical Foundation, a holistic approach to wellness involves more than just promoting individual physical health. “We see healthcare facilities much like schools, in that they are pillars in the community,” explains Elsner. “The approach at Summit is a fantastic way to encourage rural development in the community.”

Summit Pacific Elsner Rock Wall
The new Wellness Center includes a two-story rock wall. Like the conference facilities, the climbing wall is available for use by community groups. Photo courtesy: Summit Pacific

In addition to promoting exercise through the fitness trail or nutrition through hands-on cooking classes in the café, the center also supports financial health, education and employment. Banks use the conference areas to provide budgeting classes, for example. And the Medical Center has become one of the largest employers in the county, with a staff of over 300.

All of this serves to build the vision of Elma and Grays Harbor County becoming the healthiest community in the nation. The Wellness Center and other initiatives facilitated by the Medical Foundation support economic development as well as healthy lifestyles, all while maintaining the character of a rural environment.

“It isn’t just about building a playground or a rock wall or a chemical analyzer,” Elsner says of his work with the Foundation. “That’s an important part of it, but it’s much more than that. It involves people investing in themselves and in their own communities. That investment delivers rewards in every aspect of their lives.”


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