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How 4 New CEOs Stepped into the Role in 2023

Analysis  |  By Jay Asser  
   November 16, 2023

This year saw leaders take over hospitals with an emphasis on strengthening their workforce.

It’s not an easy time to be taking over as a CEO at a hospital or health system.

A challenging climate though is causing organizations to churn over leadership and longtime CEOs to exit, creating opportunities for fresh faces in new places.

Here’s a look back at how four hospital CEOs took the reins this year and what their mindset was going into their new position.

Airica Steed

The CEO of Cleveland-based MetroHealth became the first woman, Black person, and nurse to take charge of the nonprofit health system near the turn of the calendar.

Steed was also thrust into the role after previous president and CEO, Akram Boutros, was fired for allegedly authorizing himself bonuses without disclosing it, meaning her transition was steeper than usual for a new CEO.

"I have hit the ground sprinting on rollerskates," Steed told HealthLeaders. "It's obviously not the norm in terms of a normal transition, but I'm still encouraged and motivated by it."

Tiffany Miller

At Yoakum Community Hospital, the succession of power was much smoother as Karen Barber ended a 30-year tenure with her retirement, paving the way for Miller to take over in January.

With Yoakum being a rural, 23-bed critical access hospital, Miller identified keeping the workforce strong as a major paint point.

"One of the biggest focus areas for Yoakum is the recruitment and retention of qualified staff; that starts with the culture of our hospital, especially given the current environment of higher labor costs," she told HealthLeaders. "It's about creating an environment where people not only want to be, but they also want to stay."

Joe Perras

Another rural hospital, Cheshire Medial Centner in New Hampshire, saw Perras selected to serve as president and CEO in the summer.

Perras inherited a difficult situation, with Cheshire having ended fiscal year 2022 with a -4.2% margin, $10.8 million in loss, and staff salaries $8 million over budget. Speaking with HealthLeaders, Perras shared how he planned to get the hospital out of the red through rural-specific strategies focused on recruitment and retention.

"There's no plan B for Cheshire County; we are the largest provider of healthcare for our county and serve as a regional referral center," Perras said. "We need to make sure that we shore up our finances, our clinical work, our service lines so that we can keep fulfilling this incredibly critical role for the region."

Michael Charlton

Elsewhere, New Jersey-based AtlantiCare Health System appointed Charlton as president and CEO after he served as a member of the AtlantiCare board of directors for more than 14 years, including six years as board chair.

Echoing what other incoming CEOs this year have said, Charlton highlighted workforce challenges as his and the health system's biggest focus in a conversation on the HealthLeaders podcast.

"We like to say here, 'what's your number one priority' and it's 'workforce, workforce, workforce,'" Charlton said.

As the healthcare industry heads into 2024, the new batch of CEOs will continue to have their hands full while a new wave of leaders enter the scene.

Jay Asser is the contributing editor for strategy at HealthLeaders. 

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