The Health Management Academy

Trends and Profiles of New Leading Health System CEOs


Continuing The Academy’s annual Leading Health System CEO tracking research, we are excited to share our report on the new CEOs who began their tenure across 2022.

Key takeaways:

  • 24 new CEOs were appointed to lead Top 150 health systems in 2022, double the number from 2021
  • Health systems placed a priority on internal leaders (14 promotions) and business acumen (11 leaders with an MBA)
  • Notably, just one (4%) of the new CEOs is female – a significant drop from 2021 and pre-pandemic trends

Left: A graph showing the number of new leading health system CEOs each year from 2015 to 2022. Last year, there were 24 new CEOs, a 100% increase and higher than the 5 year pre-pandemic average of 22.

Number of New Leading Health System CEOs Doubled Compared to 2021

Leading Health Systems (LHS) saw CEO turnover double in 2022, with 24 new CEOs starting compared to 12 in the year before.

In 2020 and 2021, executives delayed planned transitions or retirements to manage the pandemic. However, the 2022 turnover rate more closely reflected pre-pandemic trends.

LHS continue to value the institutional knowledge offered by internal candidates for the CEO role. For external or out-of-industry expertise, board seats are often leveraged to guide system strategy. As a result, the majority (58%) of newly appointed leading health system CEOs were internal hires, consistent with prior years. These insiders averaged 14 years of service at their organization.

Health Systems Are Prioritizing Business Savvy Leaders, Promoted Internally

Reliance on Business Acumen to Chart Path Forward. Nearly all new CEOs (96%) have a graduate degree: 46% have an MBA (up from 18% last year), and 13% have an MD (down from 36% last year).

Facing tight margins and persistent workforce pressures, the increase in new CEOs with MBAs reflects a desire to appoint leaders with well-honed strategic-thinking and decision-making skills. It also marks a departure from a previous uptick in leaders with clinical backgrounds.

President & COO Most Common Roles Prior to Appointment. Two-thirds (67%) of newly appointed CEOs came from a President or COO role, and the remaining 33% came from another CEO role.

Prior CEOs predominantly came from other health systems, indicating that while most health systems are still appointing internal candidates, others remain eager for the expertise offered by newcomers.

Few Female CEO Transitions. Notably, just one (4%) of the 24 newly appointed leading health system CEOs is female. This represents a significant drop from the pre-pandemic female CEO turnover rate of 19%.

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