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Memorial Hermann CEO Chuck Stokes to Retire This Year

Analysis  |  By Steven Porter  
   February 28, 2019

This marks the third time in four years that the Houston-based nonprofit health system's top executive has left the organization, including two retirements and a resignation.

After serving more than a decade as an executive at Memorial Hermann Health System, President and CEO Charles "Chuck" D. Stokes has announced plans to retire at the end of this year.

Stokes joined the Houston-based nonprofit in 2008 as chief operating officer, and he would have been happy to finish out his career in that position, as he told HealthLeaders last year.

Stokes said he wasn't a candidate for the top executive job when longtime President and CEO Dan Wolterman retired in 2016. Benjamin K. Chu, MD, was hired as Wolterman's successor. But when Chu resigned one year later, Stokes stepped into the CEO role in 2017.

"We have always known it was Chuck's intention to retire this year, and we are incredibly appreciative that he decided to make Memorial Hermann the last stop in his long and storied career," Memorial Hermann Board Chair Deborah M. Cannon said in a statement Wednesday.

Stokes, who began his career as a registered nurse, told staff of his retirement in an internal memo Wednesday, as Houston Business Journal's Chris Mathews reported.

"I have penned many memos in my 40-year career, but none as difficult as this," Stokes reportedly wrote. "It is with bittersweet emotions and profound gratitude that today I announce my decision to retire at the end of this calendar year."

The retirement announcement comes about three weeks after Memorial Hermann and Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health called off their merger talks. Combining the two organizations would have created the largest nonprofit health system in Texas and one of the largest in the country with 68 hospitals and combined revenue of more than $14 billion. The parties didn't give a specific reason for the fizzling of their proposed deal.

No Deal: Memorial Hermann, Baylor Scott & White Call Off Merger Talks

From the Magazine: Memorial Hermann CEO Chuck Stokes as 'Steady Hand in Houston'

The health system's announcement cited several accomplishments from Stokes' tenure, including Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital being first in the Houston market to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The announcement noted also Memorial Hermann's involvement with the nonprofit generic drug company Civica Rx and the system's launching of the "Hometown Healing" volunteering initiative.

An executive search firm has been hired to conduct a nationwide search for a new president and CEO, the health system said, noting that the board will consider internal and external candidates alike. Stokes will continue to serve as president and CEO until his successor is in place.

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: Michael Starghill/The Verbatin Agency

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