Medical Center names John McConnell as CEO

August 13, 2008

John D. McConnell, M.D., has been named as the first chief executive officer in the 86-year history of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, the largest employer in the Piedmont Triad, including almost 90 percent of the region's physicians listed among the "Best Doctors in America."

As CEO, McConnell will oversee the clinical, research and academic enterprise for Wake Forest Baptist, reporting to the Medical Center's board of directors.

McConnell, 54, will assume leadership of the Medical Center restructured in March 2007 under a single overarching governing body with a single CEO. He comes to Winston-Salem from Dallas, where he has been executive vice president of health system affairs at University of Texas Southwestern since 2003. In that position, he has had overall responsibility for UT Southwestern's university hospitals and clinics as well as the faculty physician practice. A noted urologist who joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 1984, McConnell has held a number of clinical as well as administrative posts at UT Southwestern, including urology department chair, prostate disease center director, vice president for clinical programs and executive vice president for administration.

His appointment to lead the 11,000-employee Medical Center with combined net annual revenue of $1.6 billion culminates an extensive national search. He expects to begin work at Wake Forest Baptist by Nov. 1.

"We knew there was a John McConnell out there somewhere when we brought together the enormous resources of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences," said Steve Robertson, chair of the Medical Center Board. "This is a cause for great celebration for the Medical Center's patients, physicians, faculty researchers, staff and financial supporters throughout the Piedmont Triad," Robertson added. "Dr. McConnell is clearly positioned and experienced to lead us with an understanding that encompasses the evolution of physician practices, the prominent role of research in a medical center, administration and an abiding focus on patient care."

Robertson noted that McConnell comes from UT Southwestern, 15th among the nation's 123 medical schools in the most recent rankings by the National Institutes of Health for research funding, to Wake Forest Baptist, currently 32nd on that listing. "Our sights are set on the top quartile," Robertson said.

During his tenure as chair of urology, McConnell's department was ranked in the NIH top 10 funding list. His own research accomplishments were recognized by his election to the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

McConnell brings to Wake Forest Baptist a philosophy of balanced excellence which has guided his career for 25 years. "All components of the mission must be the best they can be," he explained. "We all think and act as one entity. The emphasis is on quality not quantity.

"From a prospective patient's viewpoint, Wake Forest Baptist will be the best place to go for the highest quality care from the best physicians who have been attracted by the quality of students and topnotch research," McConnell added. "Every individual who works at Wake Forest Baptist should feel appreciated and challenged to optimal performance."
Wake Forest Baptist's relationship with Wake Forest University was a major draw for McConnell.

"Close affiliation with a leading university, especially in such areas as mathematics, computer science, engineering, business and law, is vital to a medical center with a vision of greatness," McConnell said. "The complexity of health care and the challenge of translating research advances into improved patient cares require expertise not traditionally found in an academic medical center."

Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch agrees.

"The University and the Medical Center are inseparably symbiotic," Hatch said. "As a product of an academically independent medical school and with an abiding appreciation for medical research, including the advances being made in the Piedmont Triad Research Park, Dr. McConnell has made a wise choice by coming to Wake Forest Baptist, just as the Medical Center board made a wise choice in extending its invitation to Dr. McConnell."

In the CEO search, the Wake Forest Baptist board set specific background and "critical competencies." Among the experience factors were a successful leadership role within a successful medical center, demonstrated managerial and business acumen, a track record of personal academic accomplishment, political astuteness and fundraising success. The critical competencies included a strategic focus to thrive in a complex organization understanding the consequences of decisions, visionary leadership in times of change and ambiguity, and results orientation in financial management, personnel recruitment and scope of responsibility. The board also sought high personal characteristics, such as outstanding communication skills, collaboration, problem-solving, a deep passion for clinical care, education and research within an academic medical center, integrity and ethics.

A native of Independence, Kan., McConnell earned a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Kansas, then an M.D. (magna cum laude) from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, followed by surgical internship and urology residency at UT Southwestern. He and his wife, Melinda, a former medical technologist with an M.B.A. degree, have been married for 30 years. Their daughter Cara is an English major at the University of Kansas.

"The not-so-secret formula for success," he wrote to the Wake Forest Baptist CEO Search Committee, "is to identify and recruit the most talented faculty possible and then to provide them with the resources and environment to succeed."

Wake Forest Baptist comprises North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University Health Sciences and Wake Forest University Physicians. Under the reorganization introduced 17 months ago, the Medical Center board develops a unified vision and strategy.

"In our research, we concluded that the single CEO model is the solution to the challenges facing academic medical centers," said Robertson. Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University are among academic medical centers with a single CEO model.

Wake Forest Baptist has been ranked among the top 50 of America's best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report since 1993. A total of 149 Medical Center physicians are among the most recent "Best Doctors in America." For the past eight years, Wake Forest Baptist has been a winner of the Consumer Choice Award honoring hospitals that have earned the highest quality and image ratings from patients. For the past five years, the Medical Center has ranked in the 98th percentile for patient satisfaction among peer institutions. Wake Forest Baptist is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

EDITORS: Additional resources – including still photos, SOT, audio, Dr. McConnell’s Biography, and links to earlier news releases – are available at

Media contacts: Mark Wright, 336-716-3382,; Jonnie Rohrer, 336-716-6972,; John Lambert, 540-580-8491,; or Pete Pepinsky, 205-223-9995, .

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