10 things to know about Kevin Lofton, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives

Kevin E. Lofton, MHA, is a seasoned healthcare veteran with a resume stacked with experiences that distinguish him from his contemporaries.

In 2003, he took the wheel as CEO of Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives, one of the nation's largest health systems. Under his leadership, the system has continued to expand and is currently operating across 19 states and 105 hospitals.

Here are 10 things to know about Mr. Lofton:

1. Mr. Lofton's family has shared his value and commitment to Catholic-based healthcare for generations. A practicing Catholic, Mr. Lofton comes from a family of religious advocates, including his great aunt, Mother Agnes Eugenia, who co-founded the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary. The congregation of predominantly black religious women was founded in Savannah, Ga., in 1915. Mr. Lofton's cousin was also a priest.

2. Before he was a CEO, Mr. Lofton worked in the emergency department. Early in his career, Mr. Lofton served as an ED administrator at University Medical Center (which later became Shands Jacksonville) in Jacksonville, Fla. In a 2013 interview featured by The Advisory Board Company, Mr. Lofton described that experience as similar to running a mini-hospital. At the time, the ED was one of the busiest in the country, with nearly 130,000 patient visits per year.

"Running the ED gave me a chance to hone my administrative skills as I was just getting started in my career," Mr. Lofton said during the interview. "But if I look back at that experience now — in my 35 years in the industry, it's the closest that I ever came to direct patient care."

Today, as CEO, this experience on the frontlines affords Mr. Lofton a better understanding of the true happenings during patient visits and a closer look at the providers themselves.

3. Mr. Lofton has also served in top positions in public, university, community and faith-based hospitals. Prior to joining CHI, he was CEO of the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham, and in previous appointments, he served as CEO of Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and COO of University Medical Center in Jacksonville, Fla.

Mr. Lofton has also served in various leadership capacities in numerous major healthcare organizations. In 2007, he served as chairman of the AHA board of directors and as chairman of the AHA's Committee on Nominations and the Equity of Care Committee. He also served as president of the National Association of Health Services Executives.

4. Under Mr. Lofton's leadership, CHI has continued to grow. Most recently, in June CHI acquired Lufkin, Texas-based Memorial Health System of East Texas, and in 2013 it acquired St. Luke's Episcopal Health System in Houston. In February, CHI and St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, N.D., signed a nonbinding letter to form an affiliation, and in November CHI became the sole sponsor of Toledo, Ohio-based Sylvania Franciscan Health.

Despite the long list of hospitals under the CHI umbrella, Mr. Lofton has proven himself a hands-on leader and an effective collaborator. Following CHI's acquisition of Memorial Health System of East Texas, the system changed its name to CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial. While all of Memorial's facilities and operations in East Texas transformed to the CHI brand, the system kept 'Memorial' in the hospital's new name in recognition of the strength and value of the Memorial organization to its surrounding communities.

Mr. Lofton shared some of his goals for CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial, which have an emphasis on population health management — an increasingly important priority for healthcare leaders. "We want to help you to improve the health of you and your family, and so when you're not really sick, you're not really a patient, and so at that point we have to refer to them as consumers of healthcare," Mr. Lofton told reporters at Texas' KTRE News. "So it's really more about moving from an illness care approach to a wellness care approach and keeping people healthy."

Implementing EHRs in 2015 that will connect to the CHI St. Luke's global system is a top priority for CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial.

5. Mr. Lofton's vision for CHI is driven by his conviction to move the model of American healthcare from one based on "sick care" to one focused on "well care."

"'Well care' is my definition for holistic and integrative health — for wholeness," Mr. Lofton told CHI board of stewardship trustees and members of the Civil Corporation in August 2003. "It is the prevention of illness; the preservation and restoration of health; and the compassion to provide hope when healing is not possible. It is the optimal state of mind, body and the spirit; it is also the intricate connection of all three. Well care is everything and everyone that affects the health of a community."

In July, CHI announced plans to move into commercial health insurance, with pending applications to sell commercial plans in five states next year and 18 states by 2016. This step, aligned with the aims of Mr. Lofton's well care project, will position the system to contract with employers and other health insurers, offer financial incentives to control costs, and promote prevention and disease management.

6. CHI's reach extends well beyond the requirement of providing excellent healthcare services to the populations the system serves. Dr. Lofton, an antiviolence advocate, has instilled his drive to end violence throughout the enterprise by spearheading the implementation of CHI's United Against Violence initiative, introduced in 2008.

The initiative, founded on the notion that creating and promoting a culture of non-violence is critical for improving the health of society, provides millions of dollars in funding and support to help CHI's local operations create or grow their violence prevention programs. These programs address numerous forms of violence, including child abuse, youth dating violence, gang violence and domestic abuse.

"Now, as this nation continues to reel from the heartbreaking episodes of violence that have affected us all, our work seems more vital and more urgent than ever before," Mr. Lofton said of the initiative.

7. Mr. Lofton, an African American, is also a nationally recognized advocate for minorities and has helped lead substantial efforts toward eliminating healthcare disparities among minority groups.

In 2007, while serving as chairman of the American Hospital Association, he and other leaders convened as the Special Advisory Group on Improving Hospital Care for Minorities, a group charged with studying how to eliminate health disparities among minority populations and ensure racial and ethnic minorities have a voice in the national debate on healthcare reform. By no means a small task, Mr. Lofton and the other AHA leaders met this challenge head on, and devised a system to provide tangible resources to help hospitals eliminate disparities.

In recognition of his leadership and advocacy for healthcare equality, Mr. Lofton was named the 2006 National Diversity Healthcare Leader of the Year by the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was also included in the 2007 Ebony Magazine "150 Most Influential People in Healthcare." In June, he was presented with the Richard L. Clarke Board of Directors Award by the Healthcare Financial Management Association, its highest individual achievement award. Mr. Lofton won the award in recognition of his extensive efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities, and his ongoing leadership in creating healthier communities overall.  

8. Aside from his experience as an ED administrator and healthcare executive, Mr. Lofton gained the most authentic insight into the national health system as his mother became progressively ill, and he took responsibility for all of her affairs.

"I have learned more about this nation's healthcare delivery system by navigating it with my mom during the last seven years than in 24 years as a healthcare executive," Mr. Lofton said in a 2003 presentation to the CHI Board of Stewardship Trustees. The challenges he saw his mother face as a patient in the system drive his commitment to the goal of improving the delivery of care across the country and actualizing the spiritual and healthcare goals at CHI's core.

In turn, Mr. Lofton said his experience at CHI has effectively made him a better person. In the same presentation, he said, "… my entire life has been changed in a positive way. I am a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better leader and hopefully a better colleague. I've always believed in and supported the mission and vision of every organization I've worked for, because each of them claimed care of the poor at the core of their existence."

9. At the heart of Mr. Lofton's leadership philosophy, married to the greater philosophy of the CHI system, is reaching the poor in the communities the system serves with care and benefits. For example, after acquiring St. Luke's Health System in Houston, now called CHI St. Luke's Health, one of the first things Mr. Lofton did was go to Houston to connect with the leadership of San Jose Clinic. The clinic is comprised of volunteer healthcare providers who deliver care to the underserved communities of Houston, and Mr. Lofton visited to begin collaborating with the clinic as a diocesan charity.

10. In addition to his responsibilities as the chief leader of CHI, Mr. Lofton serves on the board of directors at Gilead Sciences, a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes medications in areas lacking medical services, a position he's held since 2009. In 2013, Mr. Lofton was also elected to the Rite Aid board of directors.

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