Dr. Mohan Suntha has been named the new CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System.
After a tumultuous year in which a self-dealing scandal prompted the resignation of the University of Maryland Medical System’s leadership, the hospital network said Wednesday it has promoted Dr. Mohan Suntha to become its chief executive officer.
Suntha ― known for helping St. Joseph Medical Center recover after its star cardiologist was accused of placing unnecessary stents in patients and for facing the media after one of the system’s Baltimore hospitals was condemned for “patient dumping” ― will now try to right the overall organization after the board of directors scandal that resulted in the resignation of Baltimore’s mayor.
Suntha, 55, a physician who earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, will take over the system’s top job Dec. 1.
“We are a large, complex health system,” Suntha said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. “In any organization, it’s not surprising crises will arise at times. I believe leaders demonstrate their value to an organization by how we react at times of crisis or stress. There has been a demonstrable response of leadership that shows that we are accountable for the performance of our organization.”
The institution has been under fire since March, when The Sun reported a third of its 30 board members or their companies had financial deals with the system, some of which were not competitively bid. They included then-Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat who made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling her “Healthy Holly” children’s books in a sole-source arrangement with UMMS. She later resigned from the board and as mayor amid multiple ongoing investigations into the book deals and her finances.
"There has been a demonstrable response of leadership that shows that we are accountable for the performance of our organization.”
Dr. Mohan Suntha, new CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System
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Since then, the organization commissioned its own review of its contracting practices, and accepted the resignations of CEO Robert A. Chrencik and four other executives. Sweeping legislation passed in the General Assembly demanded the resignation of the entire board.
“My hope is as a health system we’ve now demonstrated the changes that were needed to be made,” Mohan said. “I would hope that even our harshest critics would look at our health system as an incredible asset to the city and the state.”
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement Wednesday that Suntha “has the right experience and temperament for the job.”
“He certainly has his work cut out for him to restore the medical system’s reputation and get this mess cleaned up,” Hogan said. "Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new chapter for UMMS, and its outstanding doctors, nurses, and staff.”
James C. “Chip” DiPaula Jr., the new chairman of the system’s board, said the directors engaged a national search firm to help find a replacement for Chrencik, before calling it off once a preliminary inquiry determined it was unlikely to find a candidate better than Suntha. It approved the appointment of Suntha several weeks ago.
Suntha, a radiation oncologist who lives in Cockeysville, has been the leader since 2016 of the system’s flagship hospital, the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
“We knew we had a phenomenal candidate in our midst,” DiPaula said. “We had many new members of the board who joined unanimously in the selection of Dr. Suntha. We thought it was very important to get him in place as quickly as possible."
A descendant of Sri Lankan immigrants who was born in Philadelphia, Suntha is the first nonwhite person to lead the network of 13 hospitals that brings in more than $4 billion annually in revenue and has 28,000 employees. “It’s an honor and I’m absolutely humbled by the opportunity that’s been provided to me,” he said.
Many Marylanders likely heard his name for the first time after he was credited with helping the St. Joseph hospital in Towson rebound after the scandal involving a doctor who lost his medical license for giving patients cardiac stents that hospital officials acknowledged they might never have needed.
Moreover, the University of Maryland School of Medicine also announced a broad set of policy and leadership changes in November aimed at improving the culture for women at the medical school and its affiliated hospital after a former research coordinator filed a lawsuit alleging harassment by a doctor. The Sun identified more women who had complained about the doctor, and the newspaper obtained a letter written by female faculty members and residents complaining of a “hostile work environment” at the school and the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The hospital network would not immediately disclose Suntha’s new salary. He made more than $1.4 million as the CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center, according to the latest available disclosure forms.
State House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones called Suntha “a clear thinker, fully committed to the patients and the mission of the University of Maryland Medical Center and high-quality healthcare in Maryland.”
“I am confident that Mohan is the right person at the right time to steady the ship at the University of Maryland Medical System and I fully support the board’s selection of this reformer,” Jones said in a statement.
Democratic state Sen. Jill P. Carter, lead sponsor of legislation to reform the system’s contracting practices, said she, too, was pleased with the selection.
“It’s a good step for the University of Maryland Medical System,” Carter said. “He’s a dedicated servant who is committed to helping patients and communities in Baltimore. I have the utmost belief that Mohan will bring the transparency and accountability that’s needed.”
Democratic state Sen. Antonio Hayes, who represents the West Baltimore district that is home to the system headquarters and the University of Maryland Medical Center, said he’s proud of how Suntha responded to crises there.
“I think Dr. Suntha is an amazing leader,” Hayes said. “He has really focused on how to use the medical center as a strong anchor institution. It’s definitely a big win for the system.”
“He inherited an organization that he had to really focus on looking at the culture and how to bring in world-class patient care," Butler said. “I give him credit for being the type of leader who engages all employees and all stakeholders.”