One of the perks of being a healthcare journalist is the ability to meet, interview and interact with some of the top leaders in the industry. We're continuously impressed with their dedication to the mission of healthcare and their ability to seamlessly protect that mission while dealing with the numerous financial and regulatory challenges that confront their organizations.
As journalists, we're often asked at professional and even social events who we most admire in the industry. It seems everyone wants to know: Who is the best, and who is the worst? Thus, we've compiled a personal list (drawing insight from other Becker's Healthcare editors) of the ten best CEOs in healthcare. Here, we've defined 'best' as those most admired within the industry, who have the most noteworthy accomplishments as well as a personal magnetism. We've listed them in alphabetical order below (ranking these top 10 leaders against one another would be a task even Becker's isn't willing to take on!).
Ruth Brinkley, president and CEO of KentuckyOne Health (Louisville). Ms. Brinkley, an African American and preeminent advocate for women, commands the wheel of KentuckyOne Health. Ms. Brinkley is credited for the successful formation of the KentuckyOne Health system following the 2012 merger of Louisville-based Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's Healthcare and Lexington, Ky.-based Saint Joseph's Health System, but her grit and resiliency as a leader became most evident in her successful inclusion of the University of Louisville as an affiliate of KentuckyOne Health. In the face of the Kentucky attorney general's objection to include U of L and UniversityHospital in the official merger, Ms. Brinkley devised a joint operation agreement between U of L and KentuckyOne that resulted in the creation of a state-wide health system. With an emphasis on increasing access to healthcare in communities removed from the health system's downtown Louisville headquarters, part of Ms. Brinkley's vision is the implementation of technologically oriented solutions across the system, including telemedicine and EMRs.
Dr. Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, MD, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Cosgrove, the poster child of healthcare, has spearheaded the Cleveland Clinic through numerous achievements since his appointment in 2004. His leadership style and engagement with patient issues is widely recognized, and even led to an offer by President Obama to become the next Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs following its patient wait time scandal this summer, which he declined in order to stay with the Clinic. In 2008, Dr. Cosgrove instituted a same-day appointment policy, a program that has seen great success. Often referred to as the system's "chief transparency officer," Dr. Cosgrove's value of system-wide transparency culminated in the development of the Cleveland Clinic's Outcomes Books, which makes performance outcomes data for its clinical institutes publicly available. In September 2014, the Cleveland Clinic broke ground in the construction of its new, $276 million multidisciplinary Cancer Institute on its main campus. As one central facility, this new building will be home to one of the most robust cancer research and care centers in the country.
Michael J. Dowling, president and CEO of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System (Great Neck, N.Y.). Since diving into his role as president and CEO of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in 2002, Mr. Dowling has led North Shore-LIJ into numerous strategic relationships, with five affiliations or partnerships occurring within the last year alone. Standouts include a partnership with Access Clinical Partners to develop a network of 50 urgent care centers in the New York City area during the next three years, established in October, and the selection of North Shore-LIJ by the Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute as an exclusive alliance member for providing heart patients in the New York metropolitan area with greater access to clinical trials and advances in cardiac care. In 2012, North Shore-LIJ and Cablevision System, the region's leading provider of healthcare and communications, launched North Shore-LIJ Health TV, an interactive health channel that offers timely, vital health and wellness information to viewers across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Mr. Dowling also has his eye on other care and payment opportunities that span beyond the confines of hospitals. He helped launch system's commercial health plan in 2013. More recently, the health plan partnered with MinuteClinic and added 900-plus sites of care to its network. "I want to be in the health business — not just the illness treatment business," Mr. Dowling told Becker's in 2012.
Richard J. Gilfillan, MD, president and CEO of CHE Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.). Dr. Gilfillan took the helm of CHE Trinity as president and CEO in November 2013 following the merger of Newton Square, Pa.-based Catholic Health East and former Trinity Health, which was located in Livonia, Mich. As part of his vision to increase access and the quality of care for the populations CHE Trinity serves, one of Dr. Gilfillan's goals includes having a Medicare Shared Savings Program ACO in each of the system's markets by Jan. 1, 2015. As of May, CHE Trinity has five ACOs, with 11 more applications in process for January 2015. Additionally, CHE Trinity has set a three-year objective to achieve $300 million in savings through merger synergies. Under Dr. Gilfillan's leadership, the Catholic health system has already surpassed its $80 million savings target for this year.
Kevin E. Lofton, MHA, President and CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives (Englewood, Colo.). Mr. Lofton has served on the frontlines of Catholic Health Initiatives as president and CEO since 2003. Under his leadership, the health system has continued to expand its reach across the nation. Most recently, CHI acquired Lufkin, Texas-based Memorial Health System of East Texas, in June 2014, and in 2013 it acquired St. Luke's Episcopal Health System in Houston. The system also issued $1.7 billion in taxable and tax-exempt bonds to fund market expansion, IT infrastructure, insurance products, clinically integrated networks and ACOs. In addition to his accomplishments as CHI's chief leader, Mr. Lofton is also an antiviolence advocate, championing CHI's United Against Violence initiative, a nationwide enterprise committing to combat violence and improve prevention.