The rise of the dual-role CEO

In recent months, multiple health systems have named executives who already lead a region or facility to a second, dual role within the enterprise. 

Frequently, the system stacks leadership of a second hospital atop an existing hospital president's or CEO's duties. Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care named Nkem Iroegbu, MD, president of its Cudahy, Wis.-based St. Luke's South Shore hospital this month; he will assume the role in addition to his current responsibilities as president of Milwaukee-based Aurora Sinai Medical Center. 

Hazard, Ky.-based Appalachian Regional Healthcare made a similar appointment in August, naming West Virginia Region CEO Jeremy Hall to the helm of its Big Sandy region, too. 

And earlier this year, Detroit-based Henry Ford Health chose Steven Kalkanis, MD, to oversee its Henry Ford Hospital on top of his existing responsibilities as CEO of the system's medical group. 

What's driving this trend? Amid mounting financial challenges, many health systems are looking to streamline operations in top-heavy C-suites and reallocate funds to essential clinical roles and functions. When Renton, Wash.-based Providence eliminated the CEO role at two of its hospitals — passing regional oversight to one executive — the system said the restructuring freed up resources for front-line caregivers. 

Plus, these dual-role executives are frequently tapped internally. External CEO hiring has been on the decline since 2019 and this year dropped to the lowest recorded level since 2016. Internal duty expansions clear some training and onboarding costs and cut the guesswork of a new addition. If a leader can helm one area successfully, it's often safe to assume they can be trusted with a second. 

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