Dr. Walter Gaska got his first taste of local professional leadership as a young physician in 1978, working at Smith-Glynn-Callaway, when he was elected to the clinic’s board of directors. As it turns out, that was the beginning of a career marked by several leadership roles. Gaska served as chairman of the surgery department at St. John’s Hospital, and he was president of St John’s Clinic 2000–08.
“At that time, we were coming out of a period of great internal strife and poor financial performance,” Gaska says. “During my tenure as president, our clinic became nationally recognized as part of one of the most successful integrated health systems in America.”
Gaska retired from St. John’s Clinic leadership in 2008 and from his medical practice in 2010, he hasn’t yet left the field altogether.
Today, he is the medical director of St John’s Foundation for Community Health, aiding the hospital he helped build with fundraising and development.
“I was intimately involved in the design and construction of St. John’s new patient tower, ambulatory surgery center, a new emergency room and expanded physician office space,” Gaska says.
During his tenure at the helm of St. John’s Clinic, he helped grow the physician base to more than 450 doctors, introducing or expanding several specialties and assisting in the implementation of St. John’s electronic medical record system.
“I am most proud of the cadre of young female and male physicians that I helped recruit to Springfield,” Gaska says. “They continue to distinguish themselves as physicians and young community leaders.”
Gaska helped develop an entry-level management course for physicians at Missouri State University, which later blossomed into a full-blown Master of Business Administration program. He also serves as a board member for the Mercy Health Center for Innovative Health Care, Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks and Vision Rehabilitation Center of the Ozarks.
“I believe my leadership and influence in civic affairs is limited to my impact on the delivery of excellent health care in southwest Missouri,” says Gaska, who was recognized as Physician of the Year by St. John’s in 2004 and with a Salute to Health Care Award from Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce in 2005.
Gaska also is a supporter of arts and education, and he and his wife, Martha, have underwritten several Springfield Regional Opera productions, including “Susannah,” “La Boheme” and “Marriage of Figaro.” In 1997, the Gaskas were honored with a Gift of Time Award, nominated by Springfield Ballet in recognition of outstanding service. From 2011 Men of the Year