Providence CEO to retire

Rod Hochman, MD, is preparing to retire as president and CEO of Providence at the end of 2024, capping off a 45-year career in healthcare, including nearly two decades with the Providence family of organizations.

Dr. Hochman will transition into a CEO emeritus position, effective Jan. 1, 2025, and a search is underway for the next CEO, according to a May 15 news release from the health system.

He told Becker's in an exclusive interview May 14 that he is "looking forward to the next chapter" while reflecting fondly on his time at the organization.

"It's the right time. It's really the right time," he said. "My generation of CEOs, there's a whole bunch of us all at once [transitioning out of the health system C-suite]. We held up through COVID, but I think we're all coming to the conclusion that it's the right time." 

For Dr. Hochman, the transition out of the CEO role is a process he's worked on with the Providence board for the last three years. He said discussions have focused on how such a transition would be handled, as well as what's in the best interest of the organization.

"We're in the middle of that process. It's not complete, but I would say it was really dialed in for the organization, which is good, so [the transition is] not traumatic. And hopefully, as we've seen with some of these [other] transitions, it's great when you can find someone inside your organization to do it, if that's possible," he said.

These are among the considerations as the transition process continues. 

"We've been talking about it for a long time and thinking about what would work and how it would work. You always want to make sure your legacy stays intact, and that, for us, we continue down a strong pathway as we're going forward," said Dr. Hochman. 

Dr. Hochman's legacy has included expansion and growth. Today, Providence, which has system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif., is a health system with 120,000 employees, serving 51 hospitals, more than 1,000 clinics and hundreds of programs and services spanning seven states. This includes joining with Irvine-based St. Joseph Health in 2016, as well as Swedish Health Services, Pacific Medical Centers, the Institute for Systems Biology — all based in Seattle — and Richland, Wash.-based Kadlec Medical Center, according to the release.

"Rod's leadership in the healthcare sector has been nothing short of visionary," Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, said in the release. "He consistently stays ahead of the curve, always looking towards the future, a step ahead of everyone else. His passionate advocacy for expanding coverage and applying innovation to enhance care and the patient experience has not only improved the lives of millions of Americans but has also set a new standard for hospitals and health systems. Rod's integrity and commitment to principled leadership have made him a mentor and role model to many, including myself."

Dr. Hochman told Becker's he is especially proud of the healthcare that Providence delivers to millions of people in the U.S. each year, and the communities the health system is part of. 

"What I always say about Providence is we like to be deep in our communities," he said. "It's more than, 'We're just the hospital or clinic in your community.' We do a lot of social programs. We really dig deep. So we have a strong commitment in every community from Kodiak, Alaska, to Lubbock, Texas. We're deeply involved in the things that are happening in those communities. So that's a strong legacy."

He also pointed to the work Providence has done in innovation. 

"I've always said Providence exists at the intersection of innovation and compassion. That's a good intersection to be at. You want to be innovative, but you never want to forget who you are as a compassionate health organization," said Dr. Hochman. 

Regarding technology, Dr. Hochman led the formation of Truveta, a consortium of U.S. healthcare systems, to securely aggregate deidentified data for deeper insight into preventing, treating and curing disease, according to the release. Additionally, Providence India, a specialized global healthcare engineering, operations and innovation center, was established four years ago.

"Dr. Hochman has led the way in a changing world while always keeping the focus on the mission," Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said in the release. "In particular, he has been a tireless voice for those who are most vulnerable and one of the most vocal advocates nationally for Medicaid expansion. His advocacy has played an important role in expanding access to care for millions of people across the U.S. We will forever be grateful for the impact he has made on behalf of those in need."

Other accomplishments during Dr. Hochman's tenure, as noted in the release, include growth of Providence's commitment to charity care, unsubsidized Medicaid and other community benefit activities, with more than $2.1 billion invested annually; the establishment of the health system's Well Being Trust in 2016 for community-based behavioral health and substance misuse programs; a commitment of $50 million in 2020 to reduce health disparities over five years; and environmental stewardship milestones which include becoming the first health system in the U.S. to make a carbon negative pledge and join the White House Health Care Sector Climate Pledge.

"What we've done on the environment in setting a pace of what our environmental footprint should be in healthcare. Our work on health equity. The work we've done on mental health …Those are the things particularly for me as a clinician and physician that are nearest and dearest to my heart in terms of what we've done," Dr. Hochman said. "Then our research programs, all the work we're doing there to advance healthcare."

The immunologist and rheumatologist, who served as chair of the American Hospital Association board of trustees in 2021 during the pandemic, added: "I've always said for healthcare, particularly for provider healthcare, in a lot of ways, COVID was our finest hour where we all came together. Particularly at Providence, our 120,000 people came together and rolled up their sleeves, and figured out what we needed to do to take care of our communities during COVID."

Dr. Hochman has also held other leadership roles throughout his career, including the chair of the Catholic Health Association's board of trustees from 2017 to 2018, president and CEO of Swedish Health Services from 2007 to 2012, and senior executive roles for Hampton Roads, Va.-based Sentara Healthcare, Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati and Sayre, Pa.-based Guthrie.

As he prepares to retire, he offers advice to other healthcare executives who may be preparing for or considering a transition out of the C-suite: "When you're looking at transitions, it's not about yourself. It's about your organization. It's about your people. That's what I would recommend to any CEO making a transition. Don't be thinking about yourself. Think about the organization and the people there and how to ease their way and make the next part of it easy for them. That'd be my biggest advice and what it should be if you're a servant leader."

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