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Posted: March 01, 2011

CEBA Daniel L. Ritchie Award: John Hopkins

As head of Rocky Mountain Health Plans, he got it right

Lisa Ryckman

PPR_CEBA_Hopkins_Mar11.jpg

John Hopkins was a pharmacist long before he was CEO of Rocky Mountain Health Plans, but he believes his first job made him much better at his last one.

"I could always see things from a provider's prospective and why they thought the way they did about things," the 64-year-old says. "Because of my background working with patients one-on-one, I had a good understanding of what patients were looking for, and I never lost sight of the fact that we were serving individuals."

Hopkins retired in 2009, but not before Grand Junction-based RMHP had been singled out by President Obama as a managed care model that got it right, by using a collaborative, integrated approach to delivering better care at a lower cost. The statewide not-for-profit health plan provides medical benefit plans and services to both individuals and businesses.

Hopkins, who joined RMHP in 1986 to develop its first managed care pharmacy program, became CEO in 2001. And he knows at least some of what it takes to mend a broken system.

"Number one, it takes very dedicated leaders to take on the challenge and get out in front, put their own personal energy into it and be willing to lead," he says. "And it takes people willing to work with each other on the issue at hand in a good faith effort."

And one more thing.

"Rocky Mountain has been active 35 years," Hopkins says. "It doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and patience. But successes build on successes."

Before success comes a foundation of values, Hopkins says, adding how fortunate he felt to spend his career at an organization that shared his view of what's truly important in life and business. All of those values, and Hopkins' commitment to them, are reflected in the Daniel L. Ritchie Award.

"This award is about as good as it gets to me," Hopkins says. "Ethics is one of the things way up on the top of my list in terms of values. Treating people fairly and in a respectful way, being above-board and honest - those are important to me, and those are the values I found in Rocky Mountain."

While still a CEO, Hopkins was active in a variety of business-related organizations, but now that he's retired, he's been pursuing more personal passions. Those include the Western Slope Center for the Arts and the John McConnell Math & Science Center, which offers the community hands-on science and math opportunities.

An avid traveler and outdoor sports enthusiast, Hopkins skis, cycles, scubas and travels with his wife, Penny. He's also involved with a group working to make Grand Junction one of the stages of a pro-cycling race scheduled for Colorado this summer.

And Hopkins still works on making Colorado healthier: He sits on the boards of the Colorado Trust and LiveWell Colorado, a nonprofit committed to fighting obesity.

"It's gets to a point," he says, "where you're finally able to give back some of yourself by giving your time."
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Lisa Ryckman is the Associate Editor/Online at ColoradoBiz. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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