Dubuque medical CEO to retire after 22 years

After spending more than two decades at the helm of one of Dubuque’s largest employers, the CEO of Medical Associates Clinic & Health Plans soon will retire.

John Tallent will step down on Jan. 4. He has served as the organization’s CEO since 1998.

Tallent will be succeeded by Zach Keeling, who has served as the chief operating officer at Medical Associates Health Plans since the summer of 2015.

Medical Associates Clinic was established in 1924 and is the oldest and largest multispecialty clinic and health plan organization in the area.

During Tallent’s time with the organization, Medical Associates maintained success while navigating countless changes in the health care industry.

Under his watch, Medical Associates became Iowa’s first medical group to implement electronic medical records. Tallent also fought to preserve access to local mental health services.

Reflecting on his tenure, Tallent said it is difficult to pinpoint a specific achievement that stands out as his proudest moment. Rather, he is pleased with the consistent and steady improvement that has occurred at the organization over the past two-plus decades.

“No one particular thing stands out,” he said. “I like to think, over the years, we made progress in being able to further improve the quality of care and the level of service we provide.”

Medical Associates employs nearly 1,100 workers. That makes the organization the fourth-largest employer in Dubuque County, according to a ranking on the Greater Dubuque Development Corp. website.

Tallent’s upcoming retirement will mark the end of a career that spanned three and a half decades.

His health care career began in 1986. Prior to his arrival in Dubuque, Tallent held executive positions in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

He was recruited to Dubuque a dozen years later and has continued to lead Medical Associates ever since. Along the way, he helped bring hundreds of other talented medical professionals to the region.

Tallent emphasized that Medical Associates recruits physicians from around the country. He is not only proud of bringing these individuals to Dubuque, but also of the way that the company has kept them here.

“There are a tremendous number (of physicians) who have been here for 30, 40, even 45 years,” he said. “It gives any employer a fantastic advantage in providing a great level of service.”

Tallent’s impact extends beyond the organization for which he worked.

Over the past 22 years, he has served on boards for many local organizations, including Hills & Dales, Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Dubuque Development Corp., MercyOne Dubuque Foundation, American Trust & Savings Bank, Dubuque Bank & Trust and United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States.

Tallent emphasized that those community contributions will not end when he bids farewell to Medical Associates.

“I intend to continue to be involved as much as I can,” he said.

Keeling emphasized that his predecessor has provided a great example to follow.

“He has a lot of integrity and is always looking at the long term, not just the short term,” Keeling said. “He’s shown me that (in the CEO role at Medical Associates), you have to run a business, but your priority is always the patients. That is the approach I am hoping to perpetuate.”

Keeling acknowledged that his time as CEO is sure to involve changes.

Some of those can be seen on the horizon. Other developments will arise based on factors that are more difficult to predict, including the ever-evolving political landscape of the U.S.

“We can anticipate things like an aging population or a physician shortage. We know those things are coming,” Keeling said. “As for the political piece, we have to build a culture where we can react quickly and be as nimble as we can, so we are prepared when those changes occur.”