Time with dairy cows and farming taught John Ceelen some valuable lessons early in life about teamwork, humility and persistence.
“Growing up in rural Oshkosh, Wisconsin, there were many mornings as a teenager where I was up at 3:30 a.m. to work on a dairy farm owned by a family we knew well,” John shares. “It was challenging, but this experience helped shape my perspective as a person, as a leader, and as someone who cares deeply about healthcare.”
“Success is defined by listening, collaboration, asking questions, and building relationships and community locally. This is needed for personal connection, and it’s needed for the future of healthcare.”
John joins Bellin and Gundersen February 26 as the system’s new Chief Financial Officer. John will take over for Steve Little, who has served as interim Bellin and Gundersen CFO since August 2023. Steve will stay with the organization for a period to help John’s transition.
"We are fortunate to welcome John back to his Wisconsin roots,” says Scott Rathgaber, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Bellin and Gundersen Health System. “His broad understanding of healthcare in our region and his aligned commitment to our mission creates a powerful combination that will accelerate our ability to care for patients and our communities for years to come. John is a fantastic addition to our leadership team."
Deep healthcare experience
While he most recently served as CFO of Banner Health’s Western Division, which covers six mountain states, John is returning to a region he knows very well. He has more than 30 years of executive healthcare finance leadership, including executive roles at Froedtert Health in Milwaukee and at Ascension Health/Ministry Health – Wisconsin.
“As a Wisconsin native and from years of experience in Wisconsin healthcare, I have admired Bellin and Gundersen for their quality, service to the community, and collaborative, innovative culture,” John says. “What attracted me most is Bellin and Gundersen’s commitment to positively impact people and communities, with a focus on health and well-being. I am thrilled to join this incredible team.”
“I want to share with everyone at Bellin and Gundersen, our patients and our community partners that finance pros are not just people behind a computer or a spreadsheet,” John offers. “We are listeners, and we are partners who share knowledge to help people achieve outcomes.”
“We should take pride in being approachable, visible and leading with empathy. I like to round with staff, especially with clinical staff. Understanding operations helps us make the best decisions, especially for those in our care.”
A friend for Friendship
John’s previous healthcare finance work brought him close to what is now a key part of Bellin and Gundersen.
“While at Ascension Health/Ministry Health – Wisconsin, I was part of a team that assisted a stand-alone, rural hospital during the 2008 national financial crisis,” John shares. “They were in a very challenging situation, but with staff, the board of directors and community, we successfully turned things around for this hospital over a three-year period.”
“This hospital is now Gundersen Moundview Hospital and Clinics, one of the six thriving Critical Access Hospitals in the Gundersen Region of Bellin and Gundersen Health System. With a team approach, we preserved community healthcare. It’s so gratifying this hospital continues to be such a vibrant part of Friendship, Wisconsin, and the surrounding communities.”