For the fourth president and chief executive officer in its 26-year history, VHA for the first time reached inside, selecting Curtis Nonomaque, its executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer.
Nonomaque, 45, will be the first nonhospital executive to lead VHA on a permanent basis, succeeding C. Thomas Smith, who is retiring on May 1 after nearly 12 years.
The appointment of Nonomaque, who has risen through the ranks of Irving, Texas-based VHA for the past 17 years, sends a signal that the cooperative of 2,200 not-for-profit healthcare organizations harbors no immediate plans to radically change the course set by Smith. But it also arrives at a tentative time: VHA and its group purchasing company, Novation, are working to implement a code of conduct under orders last year from the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee. Indeed, the subcommittee, which after scrutinizing GPO business practices challenged the entire industry to implement a code, recently put GPOs at the top of its agenda once again for 2003.
None of that seems to intimidate Nonomaque.
"I think it's just an outstanding time to take this responsibility on," Nonomaque said. "Our hospitals are under so many pressures ... I welcome the opportunity for VHA and Novation to demonstrate the value (they bring) to healthcare."
Since the hearings there has been a change in the landscape of hospital group purchasing, with several hospital systems leaving Novation and its largest competitor, Premier, for smaller GPOs. Some have predicted that a major turnover in senior leadership in the healthcare industry in general, and at VHA in particular, might further erode loyalties (Feb. 3, p. 22).
Nonomaque joined VHA in 1986 as a financial analyst. He has played key roles in the development of numerous business ventures, including group purchasing company Novation and its e-commerce partner, Neoforma. He's held his current title since 1996.
His lack of a hospital background is a positive for VHA and assures there will be continuity in the strategy that Smith has put in place, said H.L. Perry Pepper, president and CEO of 203-bed Chester County Hospital, West Chester, Pa.
"What we are really looking for in VHA is to advantage hospitals through business relationships," Pepper said. "I can't think of anyone who understands the business of VHA better than Curt."
Similarly, Michael Berman, executive vice president and director of 2,112-bed New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said Nonomaque's selection after a nationwide search validates Smith's leadership direction.
"It's an industry that's going through all sorts of tumultuous times. To bring in an outsider to change the change is not the right course," Berman said.
Pepper described Nonomaque as personable and astute with "tremendous credibility."
"I've been in situations where things didn't go as expected and Curt stepped up and made it right. That's the kind of business partner you want," Pepper said.
Officials declined to disclose Nonomaque's salary.
Curtis W. Nonomaque
Career experience: Chief financial officer and treasurer, VHA, since 1996; started at VHA in 1986 as a financial analyst; banking officer, First City Bank in Dallas; management consultant, Arthur Andersen.
Education: B.A. in biology from Baylor University, Waco, Texas; M.B.A. from Baylor's Hankamer School of Business.
Personal: Raised in Fort Smith, Ark. Married, with an 8-year-old son. Enjoys basketball, kayaking and collecting Latin American folk art and antique cars.