Willmar physician Cindy Firkins Smith to lead buildup to new med school at CentraCare

Feb. 27—Editor's note: A typographical error has been corrected in the name of CentraCare CEO Dr. Ken Holmen.


— Dr. Cindy Firkins Smith will lead the development of a proposed expansion of the University of Minnesota Medical School to St. Cloud.


CEO Dr. Ken Holmen announced Smith's new role and the promotion of Joy Plamann to executive vice president and chief operating officer for CentraCare. Both women will assume their new roles on March 5.

CentraCare is a nonprofit health care system based in St. Cloud and focusing on rural health, which operates health care facilities in west central and southwestern Minnesota, including those in Willmar, New London, Paynesville and Benson.

Smith is currently senior vice president of CentraCare Rural Health and has been a practicing dermatologist in Willmar for 32 years. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota.

The university's Board of Regents and CentraCare recently approved a non-binding letter of intent to develop the Medical School expansion to train doctors to serve in rural areas.

"I know no one who is more passionate about improving access to excellent care for rural Minnesotans than Cindy," Holmen said in a news release. "She is ideally suited for this role."

Smith will have a joint reporting relationship with CentraCare's Dr. Tom Schrup, chief physician officer, and Dr. Jakub Tolar, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School.

CentraCare Rural Health and all other CentraCare operations will be under the jurisdiction of Plamann as COO, the release said.

Plamann has worked at CentraCare since 1994 and has been a leader in helping CentraCare attain magnet recognition in nursing excellence. In her current role as senior vice president of central operations and president of St. Cloud Hospital, she led CentraCare's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Combined with her demonstrated business acumen, she is the ideal person to lead our operations," Holmen said in the release.