Allina Health, an 11-hospital, Minneapolis-based system, will promote its president and chief clinical officer, Dr. Penny Wheeler, to CEO upon the retirement of Kenneth Paulus at the end of the year.
Wheeler, 56, is an OB-GYN and was named president last year. She has been chief clinical officer since 2006. Prior to that role, she served on the Allina Health board of directors and chaired its quality committee.
A native of the region, Wheeler noted that her involvement with Allina hospitals goes back to her birth. She was born at the system's largest hospital, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and practiced there for 20 years. Her family regularly received care at United Hospital in St. Paul. Her in-laws received care at Mercy Hospital, a facility in Coon Rapids, Minn., that her father-in-law helped open.
“I've been in the system for 56 years,” she said. “To be able to lead an organization that you love and have been attached to your whole life, it's quite an honor and I'm grateful for the opportunity.”
Allina keeps an organized succession plan which is regularly re-evaluated. “I was lucky enough to stay in the mix when it was re-evaluated,” she said.
More women are taking leadership posts in healthcare and many organizations are appointing doctors to executive roles. Wheeler recognized her place in both these movements.
“I don't think there are too many female physicians leading a healthcare system of this size,” she said.
Paulus, 55, was named president and CEO in 2009 after previously serving as chief operating officer. He joined Allina in 2005 after working as the CEO of the HealthOne Care System physician network in Massachusetts.
“I can't think of a better person than Dr. Wheeler to take the organization to the next level,” Paulus said in a news release. “She is a supremely talented leader with a very special commitment to our non-profit mission.”
Paulus is credited with leading several growth initiatives, including joint ventures, strategic partnerships and acquisitions.
In August, Allina reported a $27.6 million operating surplus on $1.7 billion in revenue for the first half of 2014. Its operating margin fell to 1.6% from 4.3%, which the system explained was due to acquisitions and investments that will position Allina for healthcare reform's “changing payment methods.” It was also reported that an initiative to cut $100 million in expenses had started.
In addition to its 11 hospitals, Allina manages Hutchinson (Minn.) Health.
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