Women of Influence: B.J. Scott – President and CEO

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She earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and sociology from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

She co-founded a company that offered entry-level sales training and personal improvement consultations.

She worked in several different capacities for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

But always, B.J. Scott was in some way helping others.

“Although it looks like nothing fits together, I believe that my career path has always been focused on helping people,” said Scott, CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers. “While I’ve been in various industries over the years, the heart of what I’ve always done is the same. It’s a very consistent theme in my life.”

Scott was nominated for Women of Influence by Lynn Pelz, spokeswoman for Peak Vista, a multi-tiered physician group. They have known each other for more than a decade, working together on various health-related issues in the community.

“She is an innovator and a real supportive person. She really encourages people to shine, and she really has put together an incredible team,” Pelz said. “She hires the best and lets them do their job. That’s probably why the organization is so strong.”

Peak Vista is a private, nonprofit organization that provides primary medical and dental services through a network of clinics to uninsured (and underinsured) people in El Paso and Teller counties. But Peak Vista, until recently, had fallen on hard times.

After accruing significant financial deficits-“a big bump on the road,” Scott said-abrupt changes were needed to turn the ship. Scott enacted a three-fold plan in October 2001.

She collapsed what had been a family of three separate nonprofits into one. She closed a birth center, Springs Center for Women, an inpatient business that was essentially a small hospital, because it wasn’t economically feasible.

Then Scott’s team embarked on a three-year effort to redesign the internal clinic and operational practice toward efficiency, what she called a “good, hard, internal look at how we could improve ourselves.”

“Peak Vista has not always been as healthy as it is today. We went through some pretty lean times and completely turned the organization around,” Pelz said. “We’re in a very good position right now. Not only are we providing services at a high level, we’re continuing to grow the organization. It’s through her direct efforts that is happening.”

Scott, however, refuses to take sole credit for the about-face. “I have an awesome staff at Peak Vista. What we were able to do was very much a joint effort. There’s a strong sense that we have to pull together and make things happen because it’s vital in our community.”

Health care wasn’t on Scott’s original list. As she was running a leadership program in Grand Rapids, Mich., a program she said was akin to Leadership Pikes Peak, she had one foot in the business world. After trailing her husband to Colorado Springs because of his job, she realized how she had loved hers, and was saddened that there wasn’t a similar opening in Colorado Springs.

“I couldn’t imagine what I was going to do that would be as stimulating and exciting,” Scott said. “But I did know that whatever organization I worked for should have a real community value, and allow me to interact with many segments of the community.”

Peak Vista, which had an opening for grants manager in June 1996, was a perfect fit. “It met the people-helping-people piece of me.” In a year she was vice president of development, responsible for community relations, public relations, marketing, fund development and grant management.

In another four and a half years, Scott was CEO. “There was a steep learning curve. It was a new field. What I had to learn was the technical part. Core leadership skills are very transferable.”

Peak Vista has 10 clinics at six sites in El Paso and Teller counties, including clinics for pediatrics, women’s health, family practice, after-hours immediate care, senior health and homeless health. The organization also has outreach clinics in Divide and Cripple Creek.

The private nonprofit organization receives about 65 percent of its funding is from health plans such as Medicaid, Medicare and Child Health Plan Plus. The remaining 35 percent of the group’s funding comes from federal, state and local grants, and donations.

The organization employs its own physicians. “Our mission is to provide exceptional health care for people facing access barriers, which can be language, transportation, geographic, age or financial barriers,” Scott said. “I feel we are a vital piece of the health care fabric of our community. At the end of the day, I feel like I have made a difference.”

As CEO of Peak Vista, Scott sits on the board for Joint Initiatives for Youth & Families, a nonprofit membership-based organization. Monthly meetings bring together a high-powered, collaborative group of CEOs, city officials, police and judicial types to address issues affecting children and families. “It’s a wonderful organization. Peak Vista is a paying member. There are some public entities that are very important to supporting youth and families.”

Scott was a founding member of Colorado Springs Assets for Youth, an organization that identified and promoted 40 assets-assets that, if displayed by the community’s youth, would help them to be successful. She also co-founded Dress for Success, a program now under the umbrella of the Women’s Resource Center, which helps low-income women get into the job market by providing interview skills and professional clothing.

“I admire single, working moms who are trying to be all things to their families in this community, and there are so many of them. I can’t imagine the challenge that must be,” she said. “That’s why I am involved in several women’s organizations. I admire them very, very much.”

Scott has been married for 34 years to Randy, and has two grown sons, Derek, who lives in Colorado Springs, and Kirk, who lives in Palm Springs, Calif. She has two grandsons, who are 2 years and 5 months old.

“It’s important to have lives outside of our work. I urge us all to put boundaries in our lives: Don’t live and die at the job,” said Scott, who enjoys hiking, golf, reading and traveling. “I like to be busy.”

As for being a Woman of Influence in Colorado Springs, Scott said she feels a bit humbled by the honor.

“I try to do my best every day to be a friend, mother, wife, CEO. At the end of the day, if I can look myself in the mirror and feel good about what I’ve tried to do that day, that’s a good day,” Scott said. “I’m humbled by the fact that members of my staff would nominate me. I appreciate the validation of some skills that people must think I have.”