In rough waters, some CEOs are dropping anchor

As health systems face financial challenges, some are turning focus to the top — finding places to cut, combine or redesign positions on their leadership teams. Others are sticking to the status quo. 

This summer, the chiefs of two academic health systems have opted to extend their contracts. LouAnn Woodward, MD, will hold the top office at the Jackson-based University of Mississippi Medical Center for four more years. And John Couris, CEO of Tampa General Hospital, will stay in place another decade. 

"It does buck the trend. It is very different. You see very few of these [extended contracts]," Mr. Couris told Becker's in an August interview. "But why not think differently? Why not buck the trend? Quite frankly, our industry needs a different way of thinking." 

Mr. Couris and Dr. Woodward will both get to finish what they started in recent years. UMMC is in the process of developing Mississippi's only burn center, and Tampa General has a $550 million master facility plan in the works — the largest in its history. Nashville (Tenn.) General Hospital employed a similar timeline last September, extending its CEO's contract by three years as it pursued the development of a new facility. 

The "stick with what you know" philosophy mimics a trend Becker's charted in January. Multiple CEOs left retirement to take over troubled hospitals in areas they were familiar with, their wisdom a welcome comfort amid constant change. 

"I'd submit to you that you need consistency and longevity to manage through the [industry's] turbulence," Mr. Couris told Becker's. "It creates a calmness and a sense of security in the organization that allows people to innovate and drive toward the organizational imperatives."

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