Joe La Rue was a practicing attorney when he had an epiphany moment that changed his life.
“About 30 years ago, I was invited to the Sun Cities and met the leaders of both Sun Health and community leaders,” he recalls. “I saw that they placed service above self and were focused on doing what was right for the community. It was a very powerful message and one that’s kept me here 30 years later.”
In June, Joe La Rue was named Sun Health’s fourth president and CEO in the nonprofit’s 52-year history. Sun Health oversees three senior housing campuses in the Sun Cities area, while the Sun Health Foundation raises money for the organization’s hospitals.
Az Business talked with La Rue about how our aging population is going to impact Sun Health and our communities.
Az Business: What did you learn from practicing law that helps you as CEO of Sun Health?
Joe La Rue: As lawyers, we are trained to look at issues or opportunities from many vantage points. When you are dealing with the public, stakeholders, donors, residents and patients, you have to look at things from many different angles as well as from an individual’s perspective.
AB: Why is the West Valley a good location for Sun Health to call home?
JLR: It’s where we were born in 1965. Del Webb and the Boswells realized they had to grow healthcare if they wanted to continue to grow and develop the West Valley. Sun Health was created to fill that need and it’s our home and will continue to be our home even as we grow across the Valley, state and region.
AB: How difficult is it balancing all the different components of Sun Health — the senior living facilities and the foundation?
JLR: I see it as one component. It’s all about how we are living. How do we all live an empowered and passionate life that is purposeful? We have different components in the organization, but all those components lead to living an empowered and healthy life.
AB: We’ve all heard about the “Silver Tsunami” that is coming. Is Arizona ready for this aging population boom?
JLR: Arizona is ahead of some places because we have always attracted many folks who are going through their journey at a later age. We have a lot of history dealing with folks who are aging. So we are well-prepared to adapt and change. Sun Health is uniquely prepared because we’ve been involved with it for more than 50 years.
AB: How is Sun Health prepared to deal with this Silver Tsunami?
JLR: Whether it’s working with hospital systems, promoting new modalities as healthcare changes, creating new ways of senior living on our campuses, creating volunteer opportunities, or utilizing our at-home product and bringing what we do best to someone’s personal residence, Sun Health is extremely ready for this aging population.
AB: How has Sun Health changed since you originally became affiliated with the organization?
JLR: The biggest change I’ve seen is that today’s resident coming in wants to know a couple things. They want to have that trust and faith in you, but they also want to know that you have their best interests as a priority and you’re going to let them live their life the way they want to live it — the way they imagined living the last act of their life. So our business has transitioned to where it is that resident-centered focus that creates communities that let individuals choose their path.