Cooper savior heading out
* Leslie Hirsch, president and CEO of the once-beleaguered 416-bed Cooper Health System, Camden, N.J., is resigning effective July 1. Hirsch, 49, who has been with Cooper for 14 years and leaves it with a positive bottom line, told the board that he wanted to redirect his career toward new challenges. But his resignation apparently shocked employees, who learned about it in the morning newspaper. At an announcement meeting, employees pre-empted Hirsch's remarks with a standing ovation. Before moving to the top spot at the southern New Jersey health system three years ago, Hirsch served 11 years as executive vice president and COO, navigating the academic medical center out of a sea of red ink, including a $16.7 million operating loss in 1999. In 1998, an internal audit critical of two former executives identified $21.8 million in losses from an elaborate embezzlement scheme from 1988 to 1994. The two executives ultimately went to federal prison for their crimes. Hirsch said he believes it's healthy for all organizations to change leadership periodically. "I've been at Cooper for 14 years and had a long, good run and made a lot of progress in the last three years. It's the perfect time in my life to look for the next challenge," Hirsch says.
* Thomas Collins, 62, will retire this year after a decade as president and CEO of Long Beach, Calif.-based MemorialCare Medical Centers, one of the state's largest not-for-profit hospital systems. He joined what is now MemorialCare in 1982 after two decades as a high school teacher, coach and administrator in Los Angeles-area schools. Collins will continue to serve as board chairman and adviser to MemorialCare for two years after his successor is named. "After 20 years, it just seemed an appropriate time to pass the leadership on," Collins says. In 1996, he spearheaded the acquisitions of Anaheim Memorial and Fountain Valley-based Orange Coast Memorial medical centers, a move that expanded MemorialCare's patient capacity by 50%. The five-hospital system now boasts 1,415 beds, 8,000 employees, 3,000 affiliated physicians and $1.3 billion in 2001 revenue. Collins says he intends to continue teaching at his alma mater, the University of Southern California, where he heads an introductory course in healthcare systems. "The satisfaction I get from teaching has never left my blood," he says.
* Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, has raided the National Cancer Institute and Johns Hopkins University to abscond with two key physician researchers. Robert Wittes, M.D., was appointed physician-in-chief at the 437-bed cancer center, while Thomas Kelly, M.D., was appointed chairman of the Sloan-Kettering Institute. Wittes, 58, is director of the division of cancer treatment and diagnosis and deputy director for extramural sciences at the NCI in Bethesda, Md. He oversees the organization's clinical and basic research programs, including the evaluation of new therapeutics. His appointment marks a return to Sloan-Kettering, where he trained and served as an attending physician in its department of medicine for 10 years. Kelly, 60, is the Boury professor and chairman of the department of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. In 2000, he was named founding director of the university's Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, which consolidates research and teaching in the basic sciences.
Shake-up continues in Chicago
* Management restructuring continues at Chicago-based Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, the new board and corporation organized last year to govern subsidiaries Northwestern Memorial Hospital, an HMO, a foundation and a home health agency. Kathleen Murray, 52, who has served as COO of the hospital since 1988 and executive vice president and COO of the parent for the past year, will become full-time president and the first CEO of Northwestern Memorial Foundation, the successful fund-raising arm. She replaces David Lawrence, who will resign as president of the foundation on Feb. 1, the hospital said. Dean Harrison, 47, who joined Northwestern Memorial Hospital in 1998 and was promoted to president of the hospital a year ago, was given the added title of hospital CEO. He takes over the title from Gary Mecklenburg, who will continue as president and CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare.
Pa. system gets leader
* Jefferson Health System, Radnor, Pa., named Joseph Sebastianelli its new president and CEO, replacing CEO Douglas Peters as of Feb. 1. Peters announced his resignation last October. Sebastianelli, 55, was chairman and CEO of RealMed Corp., Indianapolis, which adjudicates health benefit claims, and also a board member of Universal Health Services. He previously was president of Aetna, co-president of U.S. Healthcare and executive vice president of Scripps Health, San Diego. The 14-hospital Jefferson system was formed in 1995 by the merger of Main Line Health System and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Peters will be available to assist with the transition through July 1.
Satcher's next job
* U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher will lead a new center at Morehouse College devoted to promoting equal access to healthcare when his four-year term ends Feb. 13. The Morehouse School of Medicine announced Satcher will be the first director of its National Center for Primary Care. Satcher, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, drew sharp criticism from the current administration last year after his office released a report saying there was no evidence showing success among abstinence-only programs, which promote sexual abstinence while barring discussion of birth control.
New chief at Wuesthoff
* Wuesthoff Health Systems, Rockledge, Fla., has named Rick Brown as its administrator and COO. A healthcare lifer, Brown, 56, previously served as senior vice president of 450-bed Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Wuesthoff also named Gary Eubank as its new senior vice president and chief nursing officer. Eubank, 50, was previously vice president of patient services at 483-bed Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo. In December 2000, Health First, Melbourne, Fla., agreed not to challenge Wuesthoff's right to build a new hospital in Melbourne, ending a legal battle between the systems. In turn, Wuesthoff dropped its antitrust suit against Health First, which claimed unfair managed-care contracting.