In a span of two days, the heads of two of the most prominent health systems in the country have announced their retirement.
Dr. Stephen Klasko, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health, and Lloyd Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health, will be stepping down within the coming year.
Klasko, who has led the Philadelphia-based academic medical institution since 2013, will retire from his position on Dec. 31. He will remain a special advisor to the Jefferson board of trustees through the end of fiscal year 2022.
Under his leadership, Jefferson Health has grown from three hospitals to 18, with annualized revenues rising from $1.5 billion to more than $6.7 billion.
Klasko led the 2017 merger of Thomas Jefferson University and Philadelphia University, and more recently, Jefferson Health’s merger with Einstein Healthcare Network, which faced a Federal Trade Commission challenge but overcame it.
Though Klasko’s contract was up back in 2020, there were too many plans that were pending for him to step down then, including the FTC challenge, the pending acquisition of insurer HealthPartners Plans and the construction of the health system’s $800 million specialty care pavilion.
“I felt that if I’d left then, it would have been sort of ‘great vision but not done,’” Klasko said in a phone interview.
Now that those efforts are completed, or at least underway, Klasko felt he could take his next steps, which include working with startups that are driving healthcare into the future with an eye on health equity.
“For the last three or four years, I’ve had this great opportunity to almost be a horse whisperer between the Silicon Valley move-fast-and-break-things world and the more traditional academic medical world,” he said. “[Now I want to get] more into that startup company world and [help] them understand what they need to do to really transform healthcare.”
As he looks ahead, Klasko shared some advice for hospital and health system leaders that are still weathering the Covid storm.
“If you want to lead a healthcare system through a time of external cataclysmic change, you can’t use the old playbook,” Klasko said. “Start to think about what other industries have done [when they] are going through a crisis. Stop counting on healthcare leaders to give you advice.”
Dean will leave Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health in the summer of 2022, signaling a new era for the relatively new health system. CommonSpirit was created through the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives in February 2019. Dean, who was previously CEO of Dignity Health for 19 years, was named as leader of the combined organization last July.
Since its Dean took over, CommonSpirit Health has entered into an academic partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and launched a 10-year, $100 million initiative with the Morehouse School of Medicine to train more culturally competent clinicians. It has also partnered with Tia, a startup focused on women’s health, and collaborated with other providers to launch data company Truveta.
“This is the perfect foundation for the next leader to build upon, while bringing new ideas and experience to address challenges and opportunities,” Dean wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing his retirement.
Dean has not yet revealed what his next steps will be, saying instead that he will first focus on closing out his time at CommonSpirit.
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter, but my work at CommonSpirit is not done yet,” he wrote in the LinkedIn post. “In the coming months, I will remain focused on our continued integration as a single organization to achieve better outcomes and improve the health of those we serve, especially the vulnerable.”
Both the CEOs steered their respective organizations through the upheavals that resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic. Though they saw financial losses in 2020, the organizations rebounded this year.
Jefferson reported a $5.9 million income from operations in the fiscal year ending June 30, as compared with a $459.4 million loss in the prior year. Meanwhile, CommonSpirit reported an operating revenue gain of $998 million in the same time period, versus the $550 million loss it suffered during the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2020.
Photo: Martin Barraud, Getty Images
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