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University of Iowa hospitals names chief nurse as interim CEO
Kimberly Hunter will take over when Suresh Gunasekaran leaves
IOWA CITY — Chief Nurse Executive Kimberly Hunter will take over as interim CEO of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics when current CEO Suresh Gunasekaran assumes his new post in San Francisco in March.
Hunter — who has more than 30 years of health care management experience, including nearly 20 combined at the Cleveland and Mayo clinics — joined UIHC nearly a year ago.
In a statement, UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson praised Hunter’s “outstanding leadership since joining the senior hospital management team.”
She will do well, Jackson said, in continuing the system’s “patient care mission, COVID-19 response, and clinical and growth initiatives.”
Hunter in a statement expressed enthusiasm at the opportunity to lead UIHC on an interim basis “while also remaining rooted in nursing.”
“I’m fortunate to have outstanding and supportive hospital and nursing leadership teams to continue our patient care mission and stay focused on steady progress of our shared goals,” she said.
Gunasekaran, who came to UIHC in November 2018 from the University of Texas Southwestern Health System in Dallas, last week announced he’ll become the CEO of the No. 9-ranked University of California San Francisco Academic Health System on March 1.
During his three years in Iowa City, Gunasekaran has become the face of the state’s largest hospital system and only academic medical center — leading the charge on its COVID response and its push to build a new $395 million, 469,000-square-foot hospital and clinic in North Liberty.
He also recently unveiled a 10-year UIHC facilities plan that proposes building on the main campus a new academic building, specialty clinic and inpatient tower — possibly as tall as the 14-story UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
In announcing his departure, Gunasekaran said he was recruited by the system in San Francisco, where he spent time in the late 1990s as an information technology consultant.
“Ultimately, for me on a personal level, it was hard to resist the pull of UCSF,” he told reporters last week. “I've lived out there before. I'm very knowledgeable on the community, and I think it's a great institution as well.
“It isn't so much that there was something lacking here as much as the opportunity to have an impact there.“
UIHC plans to launch a national search for his permanent replacement.
‘Wealth of experience’
Hunter has been reporting to Gunasekaran since she joined UIHC on April 15, 2021, to lead UIHC’s Department of Nursing Services and Patient Care — providing administrative oversight of nursing services, the care coordination division and the rehabilitation therapies and respiratory care departments.
Her last job before UIHC was associate chief nursing officer of Cleveland Clinic’s main campus and director of nursing for Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute and its Orthopedics and Rheumatologic Institute.
Upon her hire, Gunasekaran said Hunter “brings a wealth of experience and leadership — in inpatient and ambulatory care management; staffing and resource allocation; continuous quality improvement; and nurse recruitment and retention.”
He also highlighted Hunter’s experience with the Magnet designation process — an American Nurses Credentialing Center recognition that assesses work environment and patient experience, generating benefits like ability to attract and retain talent.
UIHC first achieved Magnet designation in 2004 and was redesignated in 2008, 2013 and 2018.
“Kim’s experience and insight regarding the Magnet re-designation process will be extremely valuable as we begin our journey toward a fifth Magnet designation next year,” Gunasekaran said in 2021.
Magnet application documents — in anticipation of a site visit in 2023 — are due by this fall, Hunter said last summer in a question-and-answer with the UIHC communications team.
In that Q&A, Hunter described her management style as “transformational.”
“You set the direction, set the priorities and support your team in achieving those priorities,” she said in that interview. “I do a lot of that. I like to be collaborative, and I enjoy working with a lot of different people. I enjoy face-to-face interactions, and I believe there’s huge value in that approach.”
Hunter highlighted as areas for improvement: employee engagement, leadership development, staffing and patient experience.
As chief nurse executive, Hunter is making an annual salary of $375,000, according to the UI Office of Transparency. She’ll be making $700,000 in her new interim role.
Gunasekaran’s salary in September was listed at $1.1 million.
UIHC in recent days and weeks has made two other significant hires — highlighting the top-tier turnover at a time of significant action across the sprawling system, which is pursuing the state’s biggest-ever hospital project and continuing its COVID response, with 66 adult inpatients and 11 pediatric inpatients in the hospital Thursday.
Replacing UIHC Chief Financial Officer Bradley Haws — who left in August after three years in Iowa for the same position at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta — is Mark Henrichs, named interim CFO following Haws’ departure.
UIHC chose Henrichs to continue in that role on a permanent basis last month following a national search.
“He has a comprehensive understanding of our health system’s finances and strategic plan, and he’s done a great job over the past several months as our interim CFO,” Jackson said in a statement. “I’m grateful for Mark’s expertise, and I’m glad that he will lead our overall financial operations moving forward.”
Henrichs joined UIHC in 2004 — filling a number of financial leadership roles over the years. Before Iowa, he led financial planning operations at the University of Missouri Health Care.
In his new role, Henrichs is earning $650,000 — an increase from his interim salary of $535,000. Haws was making $550,800 before he left.
Earlier this month, UIHC chose Emily C. Blomberg as its new chief operating officer — replacing former COO Sabi Singh, who left last summer for the post of executive vice president, chief clinical operating officer and hospital president of Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.
Blomberg — selected following a national search — will start March 14 and report to interim CEO Hunter. She comes to Iowa from Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, where she served as COO — overseeing surgical, ambulatory, pharmacy, clinical laboratory, information technology and facility services.
At UIHC, she’ll oversee management of patient care operations, ancillary services and related supports.
In a statement, Gunasekaran praised Blomberg’s “background and experience in operational management.”
“She’s been a leader at some of the nation’s premier health systems,” he said. “I am confident that Emily will contribute significantly to our team's efforts to deliver the very best patient care and service to Iowans and strengthen our operational efficiency.”
Blomberg will make an annual salary of $550,000. Singh, before he left, was making $496,640.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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