The president of Johns Hopkins Health System, Ronald R. Peterson, announced Monday that he would retire at the end of the year after 44 years at the medical institution.
Peterson, also executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, helped lead Johns Hopkins through many milestone moments during his time, including the building of a $1.1 billion hospital complex, an overseas expansion, the opening of a new comprehensive cancer center and the acquisition of several other hospitals.
"I think over the years there were several highlights that I can look back on and be proud," said Peterson, 68.
Staff learned about Peterson's departure in an e-mail from Dr. Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
"In the life of an institution, there are leaders who leave such a deep and distinctive imprint that their influence spans well beyond the bounds of their career," Rothman wrote. "Beyond any question, Ron has been instrumental to the success of this organization, and I have a profound appreciation for all of his contributions."
Peterson landed his first job as an administrator in the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry shortly after completing his studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He worked his way up to become administrator of then-financially challenged Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
He would go on to become executive director of what was Baltimore City Hospital when Johns Hopkins entered into a management contract with the facility, which was losing $7 million a year. He helped make it profitable again. Hopkins bought the hospital in 1984, and Peterson became president of what is now known as Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Peterson continued to rise through Hopkins ranks, playing a key role in the 1986 acquisition of Wyman Park Health System that would evolve into Johns Hopkins' primary care organization, now known as Johns Hopkins Community Physicians.
Known for his fiscal prowess, Peterson was tapped by Hopkins officials to become executive vice president and chief operating officer of the health system in 1995.
A year later, he became president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. When the school of medicine and health system merged to become Johns Hopkins Medicine, Peterson was tapped as executive vice president of the newly formed entity.
"He helped build a truly integrated academic health system with joint decision-making and a shared vision, which has given us a strategic advantage in this time of change in health care," Rothman wrote.
One business leader credited Peterson for running a successful health conglomerate while also playing a strong civic role in the Baltimore region. For instance, Peterson was instrumental in creating job programs for those who are hard to employ, such as those who were previously incarcerated, said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
"While he has been incredibly busy leading a large, complex health care organization, he has gone about quietly helping to address issues that face Baltimore in many ways," Fry said.
Peterson serves on the board of the Greater Baltimore Committee where he was known as a good listener who didn't make quick judgments, Fry said. The group gave him the Walter Sondheim Jr. Public Service award last year, which goes to those who work to better Baltimore but don't seek accolades.
Dean E. Albert Reece of the University of Maryland School of Medicine lauded Peterson for what he has contributed to the medical community over the years.
"Ron is an excellent administrator and a wonderful colleague and friend," Reece said. "As a result, our two institutions enjoy a strong collaborative and reciprocally supportive relationship."
Peterson had been making plans to retire since last year when Dr. Redonda Miller was hired as president of Johns Hopkins Hospital, the first woman to hold the position in the institution's 127-year history.
Peterson had held that role for 20 years prior to Miller and said at the time that he wanted an orderly transition. He also said he wanted the opportunity to mentor the new hospital president.
"This is exactly how we planned it," he said. "I will ensure that it will be a smooth transition."
Peterson said that he will help find his successor, but that Rothman will make the final recommendation to the board of directors.
After his retirement, Peterson will remain involved with the institution. He will take on the role of president emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Health System and will serve for at least one year as special advisor to the dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.