Board Names Ohioan as CEO of FirstHealth
David J. Kilarski, a senior executive with the Cleveland Clinic health system, has been selected as the new CEO at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
He will replace the retiring Charles T. Frock.
“Dave was the unanimous choice,” said Alex Bowness, chairman of the FirstHealth Board of Directors. “Dave’s extensive experience made him an ideal candidate to lead FirstHealth in our ever-changing and challenging health care environment.”
Kilarski, 55, will join FirstHealth Nov. 1. He is currently president and CEO of South Pointe Hospital in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, and Marymount Hospital and Mary-mount Health Care Systems in Garfield Heights, Ohio.
He has more than 20 years of executive experience in the health care industry, including leadership roles in community hospitals, academic medical centers and multi-hospital systems.
Gabriella Huszarik, executive director of the Garfield Heights Chamber of Commerce, said the move did not surprise her “one bit,” because Kilarski has done “a great job” at the hospitals and on the Chamber’s board of directors.
“David is absolutely a wonderful person,” Huszarik said. “He has a great personality and a great sense of humor. I’m sorry to see him go, but I know he’s destined for great things there.”
Kilarski said the challenges facing FirstHealth — lower federal reimbursement, a growing number of people without insurance who need care and the “huge” uncertainty about health care reform — are no different than those he sees “everywhere else in the country.”
“The opportunity is aligning all of the stakeholders in overcoming them,” he said. “After meeting with the FirstHealth board members, physicians and staff, I knew this is where I wanted to work. As I toured Moore Regional Hospital, I was really impressed by the people — friendly, compassionate and proud of their hospital and FirstHealth.”
Bowness said the search committee was able to attract “a top-notch group of candidates” because of FirstHealth’s reputation and its success over the past two decades under the leadership of Frock.
“Our outstanding physicians, the dedicated staff and volunteers, including support of the foundation and the entire community, were also key in making this opportunity attractive,” Bowness said.
Kilarski and his wife, Teri, who have two adult children, were reminded of their days in Texas during their recruitment by FirstHealth.
“We lived in Texas for 17 years and found the people to be genuine and friendly,” Kilarski said. “When we visited the Sandhills, we had that same feeling. It felt like home.” He added that he enjoys golf, while Teri is an equestrian.
“The area was a natural draw for her,” he said. “I’m a D player in a golf scramble but enjoy the game. I heard there are a few golf courses in the area. We are extremely excited about relocating.”
Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, said Frock’s leadership created a culture within FirstHealth that “seeks excellence” in everything.
“That culture certainly influenced not only how the selection process was run, but also in determining who that candidate was that could take FirstHealth to the next level,” Coughlin said. “We can’t wait to introduce Mr. Kilarski to our Chamber board and other key members of our business community.”
Kilarski was instrumental in leading the two Cleveland Clinic hospitals to achieve national recognition in his role as president and CEO. While at the Cleveland Clinic, he had responsibility for health system hospitals with combined net operating revenue of $330 million.
“He has a proven track record building trust and teamwork among leadership, working well with employed and partner physicians, improving operating margins, increasing employee satisfaction and ensuring each patient receives the highest level of quality of care,” Bowness said. “The board is confident he has the vision and passion to take FirstHealth to the next level in delivering the best patient care.”
Kilarski, a fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives, said he sees a bright future for FirstHealth.
“The organization has positioned itself throughout the years as an innovative quality health system,” he said. “The physicians I had the opportunity to meet were first class and interested in working together to continue to bring superior medical care to the community.”
Kilarski, who grew up in a suburb of Chicago, earned his master’s degree from Ohio State University and a bachelor of pharmacy degree from the University of Illinois. He began his career as a pharmacist at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill., eventually becoming director of pharmacy.
He then took the same job at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Amarillo, Texas, where he was later promoted to chief operating officer of the 300-bed hospital. When St. Anthony’s merged with High Plains Baptist Hospital in 1996, Kilarski was appointed executive vice president of the new 420-bed, multi-state health system.
In March 2003, Kilarski became president and CEO of Marymount Hospital and Marymount Health Care Systems. He was appointed president of South Pointe Hospital in October 2006.
“As a seasoned executive, Mr. Kilarski brings not only impressive experience, but also a new and energizing vision to FirstHealth,” said Dr. Walter Morris, of Pinehurst Medical Clinic. “His extensive experience and operational management in community hospitals and academic hospitals will add to the strong foundation already in place at FirstHealth. The board clearly made an excellent choice and reaffirms FirstHealth’s commitment to health care excellence.”
Frock, who has been credited with propelling FirstHealth to the forefront in regional health care delivery, plans to retire Dec. 31 after more than 20 years on the job. As a result, there will be a two-month transition period with Kilarski and Frock working together.
“I met Mr. Frock briefly during my last visit,” Kilarski said. “I really enjoyed his insights into FirstHealth and feel that his advice and counsel will be important to me in the coming years. I told him that he should be proud of what he helped accomplish these past 20 years at FirstHealth.”
Since becoming president and CEO of Moore Regional Hospital in 1991, Frock has overseen the birth of FirstHealth and become its CEO. FirstHealth has also carried out several multimillion-dollar campaigns and expanded beyond the traditional role of hospital care into such areas as hospice, dental care, community health, home care and health insurance.
Headquartered in Pinehurst, the comprehensive nonprofit health system has about 4,000 employees and serves 15 counties.
“This just does not happen,” Kilarski said. “It takes hard work and a vision. I am honored to follow Chuck in my new position.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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