Donald Brennan, who helped oversee the creation of Ascension Health, the country's largest private not-for-profit healthcare system, is retiring as its president and chief executive officer.
Brennan announced last week that he would retire in December.
"I'm anxious to . . . enter into that next chapter of my life," Brennan, 63, said.
St. Louis-based Ascension, a Roman Catholic system with $6 billion in annual revenue and 71 owned or affiliated hospitals, was created last year through the merger of Daughters of Charity National Health System, St. Louis, and Sisters of St. Joseph Health System, Ann Arbor, Mich. (Nov. 1, 1999, p. 38).
Brennan's pending departure opens another high-profile job in Roman Catholic healthcare. San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West also is hunting for a new chief executive.
CHW lost longtime CEO Richard Kramer last summer when he and the system's board agreed that Kramer should step aside, apparently a victim of the system's explosive and money-draining growth. During Kramer's 10-year reign, he quadrupled the the number of the system's hospitals to 48. A new CEO is expected to be named soon.
At Ascension, the board of trustees plans to hire a national search firm to help find Brennan's successor.
"We're really going to focus on finding a candidate who has the experience, the vision, to lead a very large national Catholic healthcare system," said Sister Joyce DeShano, chairwoman of Ascension's board and a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph religious community.
John Lore, former president and CEO of the Sisters of St. Joseph, is Ascension's executive vice president of system development and senior vice president of the system's Great Lakes division.
Brennan, who had been the Daughters' CEO since 1995, said his goal was to get Ascension off the ground.
"My commitment was to really get this organization launched," Brennan said. "I feel very good about where Ascension Health is at right now."
DeShano said Brennan's departure was his choice.
"We've appreciated Don's leadership," DeShano said. "He has been an extraordinary leader for many years in healthcare."