Chris Van Gorder spent more than 20 years leading Scripps Health by day and volunteering with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department at night. Even with a jam-packed schedule, he found fulfillment in both roles.
“There were some times when I’d been out on a search and rescue mission all night and went to work [at Scripps] that morning,” he said.
Van Gorder was named president and CEO of San Diego-based Scripps in 2000. Two years later, he was sworn in as a reserve deputy at the sheriff’s department. He retired from law enforcement in January, but continues to lead the nonprofit health system.
He admits there were some nights he didn’t sleep much while juggling the positions, but he remained dedicated to his two passions. He typically volunteered more than 1,000 unpaid hours per year for the sheriff’s department.
Van Gorder originally planned to pursue a law enforcement career, but an injury sustained while responding to a family dispute call pushed him toward healthcare. Still, his volunteerism allowed him to continue that path in a different fashion.
His background as a healthcare leader and trained emergency medical technician proved valuable at the sheriff’s department. He spent 18 years teaching a medical course in the search and rescue academy, and tapped Scripps Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ghazala Sharieff to co-teach and share her emergency medicine insights.
“What’s been rewarding is when [search and rescue team members] come back and say, ‘That pearl of information that you taught us came in handy when I encountered this [situation] in the field,’” Sharieff said.