(This story was updated at 1:35 p.m. ET.)
Dan Wolterman, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System, will retire in the second half of 2016, after 17 years with the Houston-based system.
Wolterman, 59, has served as CEO since 2002. Memorial Hermann has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to conduct a national search for his successor, looking at both internal and external candidates.
“It has been a great honor to lead one of the most respected healthcare systems in the nation,” Wolterman said in a statement. “It has been particularly gratifying and a privilege to work with a group of incredible employees and physicians that are among the best in the country. But it has always been my desire to retire at 60 to travel with my wife, Lori, spend more time with our family and enjoy the next chapter of our lives.”
During his tenure as CEO, Memorial Hermann quickly expanded to 13 hospitals and more than 200 care sites. Wolterman said in an interview that the system has expanded its geographic footprint and increasingly engaged with local leaders to better manage the health of the Greater Houston community.
“We were at the forefront of all that and have been changing our system to be more out in the community,” Wolterman said. “We had really transformed our system before the Affordable Care Act. It has helped our system move even more rapidly forward.”
Wolterman also led the formation of the system's accountable care organization, which the system says is the country's most successful Medicare shared-savings program. He said the ACO was one of his proudest moments for Memorial Hermann.
“We now have contracts with all the insurance carriers under a single signature contract where we can demonstrate better outcomes at lower costs,” Wolterman said, while also pointing to the system's establishment as the first high-reliability healthcare organization in Texas in its efforts to avoid errors.
The system made national news last month after staff at a women's health clinic called the police on an immigrant patient using a fake ID, unaware that she was in the U.S. illegally. Though the ACA has helped curb the uninsured rate, systems in areas with high populations of undocumented immigrants continue to face challenges in being able to care for them, he said.
“It's such a big problem for our community,” Wolterman said. “How do you run a successful system from a financial point of view when you're shouldering an ever-growing burden from these individuals?”
Caring for the uninsured and underserved is an important issue for Wolterman, who spearheaded the creation of the Memorial Hermann Community Benefit Corp., which brings providers, government officials, business leaders and community stakeholders together to address access issues in Houston.
Wolterman has been named one of Modern Healthcare's 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare seven times, ranking No. 72 on this year's list.
Will Williams, board chair at Memorial Hermann and a managing director at JPMorgan Chase & Co., commended Wolterman for leading the system through healthcare reform while improving its quality measures. “When you think about the changing landscape in healthcare not just today but the last five to 10 years, Dan has been at the forefront of leading Memorial Hermann through all that change,” he said.
Williams said Wolterman has built a successful management team that offers strong internal candidates and that it will be important for such a sophisticated health system to also look to other companies for potential leaders.
“I think our next leader is going to have to be somebody who, like Dan, is visionary and thoughtful, and knows and understands how healthcare is changing and how we as an organization need to be able to change with it in order to continue to be successful in our communities,” Williams said.