Dr. Mohan Suntha, credited for turning around University of Maryland's St. Joseph Medical Center after a scandal with one of its cardiologists, has been tapped to head the system's flagship hospital in Baltimore.
The University of Maryland Medical System announced Thursday that Suntha, 51, would succeed Jeffrey Rivest, who left last August, as president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center. He takes the helm Sept. 1.
"My goal is to continue to ensure that we focus on delivering the highest quality care for patients — some who have complex medical and surgical challenges — and to do it in an environment that fosters education and innovation," Suntha said.
The medical system conducted a national search led by a committee co-chaired by Robert A. Chrencik, president and CEO of UMMS, and board chair Louise Michaux Gonzales.
"Dr. Suntha brings a superior blend of experience in compassionate patient care and hospital administrative expertise to lead UMMC into the future," Chrencik said in a statement. "Throughout his career, he has demonstrated his acumen for clinical care and hospital management, which will serve UMMC well at a time of evolution in health care delivery in Maryland and throughout the country."
Suntha worked his way up the ranks at the 12-hospital health system, starting in 1991 as a resident in the department of radiation oncology, where he remains vice chairman and a professor. As vice president for system program development, he helped guide the strategic growth of the medical system, which has bought up a string of regional hospitals in the last several years.
He also helped broker research agreements and helped better align the University of Medical School of Medicine with the hospitals.
Suntha's been credited with turning St. Joseph around. UMMS picked him to head up the troubled hospital after it acquired St. Joseph in 2012 from Catholic Health Initiatives. The Denver-based Catholic hospital group sold the Towson hospital after its star cardiologist, Dr. Mark Midei, placed stents in the arteries of hundreds of patients who may not have needed them.
Despite its financial problems, the hospital was attractive to UMMS because its clientele were generally higher-income with very few Medicare or Medicaid recipients. It also had strong cardiac, orthopedic, and obstetrics and gynecology programs.
Shortly after taking over, the new executive team led by Suntha developed a five-year strategic plan to erase the hospital's financial deficit. St. Joseph is now poised to post a profit in the fiscal year ending next month and has turned its focus to services and needed upgrades — including a roughly $100 million renoivation of its operating rooms — rather than recovery.
Dr. Thomas Smyth, the medical director at St. Joseph, will take over Suntha's role at the hospital. Smyth also has held various leadership positions with Chesapeake Urology Associates.
Suntha's new position will include overseeing both the main academic medical center on Greene Street, which includes the Shock Trama Center, Children's Hospital and Greenebaum Cancer Center, as well as the Midtown Campus, formerly Maryland General Hospital, about a mile away on Linden Street.
He said he has identified several areas he would like to focus on including improving the patient experience, fostering innovation through clinical research and maintaining healthy finances as the way hospitals are reimbursed shifts away from reyling on inpatient stays.
He also hopes to create more opportunities to address health disparities in West Baltimore through community programs that focus on preventive care, managing chronic illnesses and workforce development. He sees the system not just as a provider but an important economic engine and institutional anchor.
"Continuing to build relationships between the community and our organization is incredibly important," Suntha said.
Suntha earned his medical degree from the former Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and also has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Baltimore County with his wife and two daughters.
He plans to continue to treat patients with complex head, neck and esophageal cancers.