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Boston Medical Center’s New CEO Is Homegrown

After nationwide search, Brookline native Kate Walsh emerges

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Kate Walsh, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will succeed Elaine Ullian as president and CEO of Boston Medical Center. Photo by J. Kiely, Jr.

Boston Medical Center officials have announced that Kate Walsh, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will become the next president and CEO of Boston Medical Center. Her appointment, on Tuesday, January 5, concluded a five-month nationwide search and was ratified by a unanimous vote of the center’s board of trustees.

Ted English, who chairs the board and headed its search committee, says Walsh “is the best candidate to emerge from an extremely strong field of candidates from every region of the country.”

BMC’s mandate to serve Boston’s poorest residents is what drew her to the position, according to Walsh. Having worked in medical academic centers for most of her career, she says, she enjoys “the complexity of issues and wide variety of people who work in these environments. It’s a privilege to support the work of nurses, doctors, therapists, nursing assistants, translators, and pharmacists, all of whom come together to ensure that patients and families get the care they need and deserve.”

Walsh will begin on March 1, succeeding Elaine Ullian, who has overseen Boston Medical Center since its creation in 1996 with the merger of Boston City Hospital and University Hospital. Ullian announced last July that she would retire when her contract expires on January 29.

“Kate is a terrific choice,” Ullian says. “She is very knowledgeable about health care, deeply committed to excellence in patient care, and clearly drawn to the mission of BMC. I am truly delighted she will succeed me.”

A native of Brookline (where her father served as a police officer) and a Yale graduate, Walsh began her health-care career as a summer intern at Brookside Health Center, in Jamaica Plain. She was employed at several New York City medical centers before returning to New England, where she worked in financial management at Massachusetts General Hospital and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge. During her years at Brigham and Women’s, she oversaw the construction of the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center. She currently serves on the Northeastern University School of Business board of visitors and the Emmanuel College board of trustees.

A longtime advocate of affordable health care, Walsh says one of her goals is to help make the “highest quality health-care system more uniformly accessible, affordable, and available” to Boston’s lower-income residents.

Her appointment drew praise from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. “BMC has a sacred mission to serve some of our most vulnerable residents,” he says. “We share that commitment, and I look forward to working with Kate.”

“She understands the complex issues that challenge academic medical centers,” says Karen Antman, dean of the School of Medicine and provost of the Medical Campus. “Her diverse experience, combined with her vision and commitment to delivering high-quality health care, will serve our campus and community well.”

A 626-bed facility employing more than 6,000 full- and part-time workers, BMC came under financial scrutiny last year, when officials projected it will lose $134 million in the current fiscal year, which began October 1, 2009, in large part because of reduced state reimbursements for indigent care. The hospital reported a $12 million loss — its first in five years — in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009.

Officials declined to detail Walsh’s salary (although it will become public in mandated state filings later in the year). English says that Walsh “will receive a compensation package reflective of her experience and commensurate with her position as the CEO of an academic medical center that treats over one million patients and, with the combination of the medical center and the health-care plan, generates over $2 billion in annual revenue.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

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