By Jeffrey Krasner
Globe Staff / February 25, 2009
Dr. Gary L. Gottlieb, the president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will become chief executive of Partners HealthCare System Inc. at the end of the year, when Dr. James J. Mongan retires from the position.
Partners’ board of directors yesterday unanimously selected Gottlieb, 53, ending five months of speculation. In September, Partners said Mongan would retire at the end of 2009 and named Gottlieb and three other system executives as finalists for his job. A search committee also evaluated outside candidates.
In an interview, Gottlieb said he was "ecstatic."
"Being a physician is an enormous privilege, and in being a hospital manager, the size of the opportunity grows," he said. "In the role that I have at the Brigham, I’m facilitating the work of many people who are more talented than I am. As the head of Partners, that opportunity multiplies."
The post is one of the best-paid and most visible jobs in medicine in the country. Mongan, 67, earned about $2 million in the year ended Sept. 30, 2007, the most recent for which compensation has been reported.
Mongan, former president of Massachusetts General Hospital – another Partners hospital – became chief executive of Partners in 2003. Since then, the company has grown significantly and adopted electronic medical records for its doctors. It is widely seen as one of the most successful "integrated medical systems," meaning a network that can provide many types of treatment, not just hospital care.
Mongan has also played a public role guiding healthcare policy in the state and nationally. He helped craft the Massachusetts healthcare reform law that has extended medical coverage to more than 400,000 residents, and has played a prominent role in policy debates in Washington, D.C. When he retires, he will also step down from Partners’ board of directors.
Jack Connors Jr., the chairman of the Partners board, said, "The four inside candidates were each superior to the outside candidates. We’ve got some great bench strength. We’re hopeful the three alternate candidates stay with us as well."
Many members of the healthcare community favored Gottlieb because he came from Brigham and Women’s. Mongan and his predecessor as Partners chief executive, Dr. Samuel Thier, both came from Mass. General, the other founding facility of the Partners group.
While Gottlieb’s selection "creates a certain symmetry," Connors said, it wasn’t a factor in the search.
The decision comes at a crucial time for Partners. The system, formed in 1994 by the Brigham and Mass. General, has grown to become a potent force throughout healthcare in Eastern Massachusetts. It provides about one-quarter of inpatient treatment in Greater Boston, and has expanded to include Newton-Wellesley Hospital, North Shore Medical Center in Salem, Faulkner Hospital in Boston, and McLean Hospital in Belmont.
Partners is the largest private employer in the state, with 50,000 employees. Its growth has spurred complaints from community hospitals that Partners has used its financial resources to expand aggressively and lure patients for lucrative procedures, leaving the smaller hospitals to treat patients with government health insurance and conditions that do not pay as well.
Meantime, Partners is facing an inquiry by Attorney General Martha Coakley. Last month, Coakley issued civil requests for information to Partners and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts following a Globe Spotlight story in December that showed the two healthcare giants had entered into a contract that was potentially anticompetitive.
Gottlieb, a psychiatrist, had a national reputation for his work in geriatric mental health when he was recruited by Partners in 1998 from the University of Pennsylvania. He became head of Partners’ psychiatric services, and served as interim head of North Shore Medical Center.
He became president of Brigham and Women’s in 1992. He has also served as cochair of the Mayor’s Task Force to Eliminate Health Disparities, and is the chairman of the Private Industry Council, a civic group that seeks to build the healthcare workforce for Boston.
"I hope I’ve made the Brigham more effective in delivering care, created a more gifted workforce that’s better enabled to do their jobs, and made the Brigham more of a corporate citizen in our communities," Gottlieb said.
He acknowledged that the rising costs of healthcare are a challenge, saying preventive care, and improved access to treatment that can eliminate the need for costly emergency care can help slow increases.
"Improved access to care is critical," Gottlieb said.
Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at email@example.com.