'Time to pass the baton': Departing CEO Christine Candio reflects on accomplishments at St. Luke's

Christine M. Candio, president and CEO of St. Luke's Health Corp. in Chesterfield, Mo., will say goodbye to her executive role when she resigns on April 1.

Ms. Candio has held the top leadership role at the two-hospital health system since January 2015. Previously, she was CEO of Inova Alexandria (Va.) Hospital and senior vice president of Falls Church, Va.-based Inova Health.

She told Becker's Hospital Review she is excited about moving back to the East Coast and beginning a new life chapter closer to family. She shared why she decided to resign, her accomplishments at St. Luke's and some advice for other hospital CEOs.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What prompted your decision to resign?

Christine Candio: It was a decision I thought about for some time with my husband and family. I was at an inflection point. I look back on all the accomplishments that I've been able to see with my team here. There was a tremendous amount of accomplishment. And our entire family is on the East Coast, so I felt this was a good time to say, "Time to pass the baton."  I was able to bring the organization further along down our journey as an independent organization and feel that I've laid the foundation for continued future, positive, growth. And we felt like now was a good time. We missed our family back East.

Q: Looking back on your tenure at St. Luke's, what are you most proud of?

CC: The wonderful relationships I've developed with the team members, but also the community throughout St. Louis. To me, life is about the journey and the relationships you build. That is important to me, and I feel good about that. That's what makes it so difficult to leave. Under my tenure, we also did a lot of fun things and important things for the organization. We built a new outpatient center and completed a $40 million campaign ahead of our timeline. That was very exciting. We also became an alliance member of Cleveland Clinic in the heart and vascular institute. That has been very positive for the organization and the community. We also expanded our outpatient footprint and added another urgent care center. In May of 2018, we acquired another community hospital, which is now called St. Luke's Des Peres Hospital in St. Louis. St. Luke's is 154 years old, so that was a big step.

The other thing I'm proud of — but won't see finished — is I worked with physicians, and we are moving forward in building our own joint-venture ambulatory surgery center. I felt committed to having an option for our surgeons under the St. Luke's umbrella, but it is a separate corporation, and it's a joint venture with our surgeons and a management partner. I'm very excited about that. All of these things help facilitate our strength as an independent organization in the market.

Q: Do you have plans to stay in healthcare?

CC: I love healthcare. I grew up in healthcare as a bedside nurse. I've been in healthcare now 37 years. I do believe — and I've always said — being in healthcare is a sacred privilege, and I take that very seriously. I'm looking at different options. It's time for me to take a deep breath, get back East with my husband and look at what options there may be. It's a new chapter in our lives that I'm very excited about.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other hospital CEOs?

CC: One of the things I've learned and continue to reflect on is: "Always be genuine. Always maintain your integrity and your credibility and be a great listener." With all of that, I always add: "And never take yourself too seriously."


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