Our ranking of the Valley’s most influential people in healthcare.

Healthcare Power List 2017

Written by Jimmy Magahern Category: People Issue: April 2017
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Emerging medical technologies and innovative educational methods are accelerating progress in healthcare to new and exciting levels.

But the questions of how companies will deliver that healthcare, and how we’ll pay for it, are more uncertain than ever.

The Affordable Care Act is in peril under the new presidential administration, along with the future of Medicare and Medicaid. Add to that a larger and more diverse mix of patients brought into the insured population by the ACA, with many using consumer-centered technology to monitor and improve their health independent of physicians and providers, and you have a new population of healthcare consumers, with a huge range of expectations and needs.

With this shifting medical landscape in mind, we placed the Valley’s many administrators, policymakers, physicians and academic leaders on our editorial power scale – and came up with this 2017 list.

 

1 Peter Fine
President and CEO, Banner Health
Age: 64
Rank last year: 1
Pursuant to our inaugural list in 2016, Banner remains Arizona’s largest hospital system and its biggest private employer, with 40,000 workers. Little wonder, then, that Fine holds onto his top spot. This year, he’ll roll out Banner|Aetna, a new collaborative health insurance plan designed to provide specialized care for Aetna’s peak consumers, i.e. the 5 percent who account for 60 percent of its costs. Banner is also diversifying its patient population through its $100 million purchase of Urgent Care Extra, a chain of 32 urgent care clinics which it plans to expand to 50 this year. That “reinvention,” as officials are calling it, will shake up some structuring: Leaders recently confirmed that supervisory and managerial positions across several divisions may be cut. No worries about the top executive in charge of all these bold moves, however. He’ll be Fine.
 

 

2 Linda Hunt
President and CEO, Dignity Health Arizona
Age: 69
Rank last year: 4
At a time when rural America is suddenly flexing its political power, healthcare systems are looking for ways to reach beyond urbanized areas to service populations long denied access to top-notch care. The Arizona Health Collaborative, chaired by Dignity Health CEO Hunt, aims to bridge that divide by teaming up with health centers and clinics in rural areas throughout the state. The collaboration allows smaller clinics to share in the medical supplies and health insurance coverage plans bought in bulk by a consortium of Phoenix-area healthcare providers, including the Valley’s five Dignity Health hospitals. Hunt says the AHC has already saved the big-city hospitals more than $4.5 million in operations. In the Valley, Dignity Health also opened One Medical Group primary care center, securing its position as the second largest hospital group in the state – and still growing.
 

 

3 Dave Allazetta
President and CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Arizona
Age: 61
Rank last year: 15
Allazetta is probably the fittest person on this list: An unabashed fitness buff, the second-year CEO can deadlift 325 pounds and finished fifth for Arizona in last year’s Reebok CrossFit Games. He also might be the most well-compensated: With 1.8 million subscribers, UnitedHealthcare is the state’s largest insurer. The company announced last April that it was exiting the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Arizona, which may have prompted smaller providers to follow. Perhaps as contrition, Allazetta has been promoting the grants the company gives to families in need (up to a lifetime maximum of $10,000) through UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation, available to applicants regardless of coverage. Allazetta calls it the “best-kept secret” in the healthcare market.
 

 

4 Wyatt Decker, M.D.
Vice president and CEO, Mayo Clinic in Arizona
Age: 54
Rank last year: 2
Mayo employs a term-limited “rotational leadership,” where powerhouse physicians are transitioned from clinical practice to administrative leadership and back again approximately every eight years, to keep them in the game. That puts the current CEO Decker, who’s due to return to his previous role as emergency room physician sometime in 2019, in line for an impactful final term. This summer, Mayo opens the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in northeast Scottsdale, a four-year medical school based around an innovative curriculum developed in collaboration with Arizona State University aimed at fast-tracking students to work in modern healthcare systems. Decker predicts it will “blow up” the traditional medical school model, and the American Medical Association is backing the novel program with a $1 million grant through its Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative. What better way to grow its future physician/CEOs?
 

 

5 Robert Meyer
President and CEO, Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Age: 65
Rank last year: 3
PCH is not only one of the most touted children’s hospitals in the nation (consistently top ranked in 10 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals), it’s also a Herculean fundraising force, drawing in upward of $40 million a year from nearly 20 different corporate foundations and charitable organizations. Meyer, whose first job in the industry was a Medicare auditor in Ohio, learned the value of reimbursements early, and uses that influx from the community to fund research and clinical programs, upgrade technology and recruit top physicians, giving every donor a sense of ownership in the hospital’s continued success.
 

 

6 Richard L. Boals
President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
Age: 69
Rank last year: 5
Last summer, BCBSAZ joined six other insurers in announcing it was dropping coverage for Maricopa County residents through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, citing financial losses. In September, BCBSAZ reversed its decision to pull out of ACA coverage in Pima County as well, which would have left its 10,000 residents fending for coverage in what would have been the only U.S. county without a single marketplace option. Boals, in the hot seat, complained that the state’s largest not-for-profit insurance company lost $185 million on individual ACA plans in just two years – a tough sell coming from an executive whose compensation for the previous year, according to the Washington, D.C.-based industry watchdog AIS Health, topped $5 million, making him one of the industry’s highest-paid executives. Dropping out of the ACA will, however, cut about 44,000 insurance exchange enrollees from the 1.3 million subscribers BCBS had last year.
 

 

7 Todd LaPorte
CEO, HonorHealth
Age: 55
Rank last year: NR
HonorHealth CEO Tom Sadvary and president Rhonda Forsyth will both retire this spring, having jointly guided the 2013 merger of Scottsdale Healthcare and the John C. Lincoln Health Network into HonorHealth.Replacing Sadvary at the top of the masthead: LaPorte, HonorHealth’s current chief administrative officer. Holding an MBA from ASU, LaPorte is a finance guy – he began his career at Ernst & Young before joining Scottsdale Healthcare as director of finance in 2001 – but that fits with HonorHealth’s population management approach, which manages care beyond the hospital walls to include acute-care facilities, home-health care and more. “Those responsibilities used to be the insurance companies’,” LaPorte told American Healthcare Leader recently. “But now we have to own them.” Having doubled in size since its creation in 2013, HonorHealth – currently the third-largest group in Arizona with 15.3 percent of patient market share – is positioned to pull ahead of Dignity Health (16.1 percent) in the coming years.

 

 

8 Christina Corieri
Senior Policy Adviser to Gov. Doug Ducey
Age: 35
Rank last year: NR
Corieri joined the Ducey administration in January 2015 after serving as healthcare policy analyst at the conservative Goldwater Institute, where she was a vocal opponent to Medicaid expansion. This February a lawsuit went before the Arizona Court of Appeals, filed by the Goldwater Institute, challenging whether the state’s $265 million a year collection from hospitals, used to fund the state’s portion of Medicaid expansion costs, is a legal assessment or a tax – with Ducey’s office tasked with defending its legality. That puts Corieri in a worrisome position of influence as Ducey’s healthcare policy adviser. If Medicaid expansion in Arizona is undone as a result of the Goldwater lawsuit or a repeal of the ACA, roughly 400,000 people in the state could lose coverage.
 

 

9 Cara Christ, M.D.
Director, Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS)
Age: 42
Rank last year: 6
Since being appointed ADHS director in May 2015, Christ has been busy with far more than just tracking outbreaks of the flu, foodborne diseases and leptospirosis (i.e. canine diarrhea… just another bad thing that happened in 2016). Christ also headed a task force to combat Arizona’s prescription opioid epidemic by training first responders and the families of at-risk youth in the administration of the life-saving drug naloxone; led an initiative to include tests for severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID (“bubble boy disease”), in standard newborn screenings; and pushed successfully for the creation of a Center for Psychiatric Excellence, just down the street from the Maricopa County Human Services Campus. Only the failing of the marijuana initiative, which would have increased the power of her office, bumps Christ’s ranking down from last year’s.
 

 

10 Michele Finney
Market CEO, Abrazo Community Health Network
Age: 59
Rank last year: 8
Among her achievements since taking charge of Arizona’s fourth-largest health network in 2014, Finney championed the innovative redesign of Abrazo’s website and mobile app, which includes an online emergency room check-in, allowing patients to wait at home before their projected treatment time at one of the system’s six acute care hospitals. More crucially, Finney’s focus on tech has channeled $50 million in investments into cutting-edge tools like the ZeroG robotic body-weight support system to provide therapy to paralyzed patients and the NICO BrainPath device, which allows a less-invasive option to brain surgery. Moves like that have earned the former dietary assistant cred among Arizona’s knowledge-based economy, as well as 2016’s Healthcare Executive of the Year award by AZ Business.
 

 

11 Jeffrey Trent
President and research director, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)
Daniel Von Hoff
Director of translational research, TGen
Ages: 64 and 69
Ranks last year: 10
In November, TGen announced it was becoming a subsidiary of California-based cancer research and treatment center City of Hope, sparking concerns that the nonprofit research institute that made Arizona a prominent player in the biosciences industry might be leaving the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in Downtown Phoenix. Trent, who founded TGen in 2002, has been doing his best to quash those fears, saying that the Phoenix staff of scientists and administrative employees, which now numbers slightly more than 200, could actually expand by as much as one-third under the new alliance. Together with Von Hoff, who last year added a Giant of Cancer Care award from OncLive to his many accolades, Trent should be among those first in line to receive a grant from former Vice President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative.
 

 

12 Michael Crow
President, Arizona State University
Age: 61
Rank last year: NR
Under the leadership of Crow, ASU and the Mayo Clinic formalized a partnership last October, dubbed the Alliance for Health Care, to create a curriculum geared toward educating the healthcare workforce for the future. With an emphasis on new technologies, bioengineering and interdisciplinary care, the curriculum, to be offered at Mayo’s new medical school in Scottsdale, is just Crow’s latest crossover into the healthcare field. ASU’s president was also instrumental in the development of The Biodesign Institute and has been a prime mover in Arizona’s healthcare innovations, having already collaborated with Mayo on everything from regenerative medicine to wearable biosensors. Talk to anyone in Valley healthcare innovation long enough, and they eventually bow to Crow.
 

 

13 Paul Barnes
President and CEO of Centene’s Arizona subsidiaries, Bridgeway and Health Net
Age: 60
Rank last year: NR
After every major insurer available to Maricopa County residents announced they were dropping out of the Affordable Care Act individual-consumer marketplace in 2017 due to financial losses, St. Louis-based Centene seized an opportunity. The company has been snatching up ACA exchange plan enrollees in states where other insurers are dropping out, and is set for a record earning season: Centene’s individual business in the marketplace now has about 1 million members compared to just 540,000 at the end of last year. Barnes, president and CEO of Centene’s Arizona subsidiaries Bridgeway and Health Net – which had previously pulled out of the marketplace – directly administers the plan in Maricopa County. With over 128,000 Maricopa County residents enrolled through the ACA as of September and more added during the last open enrollment period, he’ll be busy.
 

 

14 Steve Purves
President and CEO, Maricopa Integrated Health System
Age: 60
Rank last year: 11
Purves inherited a publicly funded health organization with dwindling cash reserves when he became CEO of MIHS in 2013 and weathered the loss of several key federal funding sources in the following years. Now Phoenix’s only public hospital providing uncompensated care to the poor is facing the possibility of having to serve an even larger pool of uninsured patients should the Affordable Care Act be repealed. Ironically, passage of the ACA failed to provide much financial relief for MIHS, as its ramping up coincided with the expiration of Arizona’s Safety Net Care Pool, which had funneled $147 million into the system from 2011 to the end of 2013. Now the 140-year old organization, which is also the county’s largest training center for healthcare professionals and includes the state’s only burn center, may be facing its most challenging period ever. Purves, who came on board with a $525,000 base salary plus a potential $125,000 in annual bonuses, is certainly being made to earn his keep.
 

 

15 Daniel Ostlie, M.D.
Surgeon in Chief and Chair of Surgery, Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Age: 49
Rank last year: NR
As PCH’s new surgeon in chief, Ostlie – who recently purchased a $2 million home in Paradise Valley – celebrates a kind of homecoming: Ostlie completed his residency in general surgery at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale before serving fellowships from Cambridge, England, to Kansas City, Mo., finally landing at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wis., where he worked as surgeon in chief. Although he’s an expert in a multitude of pediatric surgery procedures whose name appears on more than 260 published scholarly papers, Ostlie likes to foster an open team environment, where nurses and surgical technicians have as much say as the surgeons and anesthesiologists. It’s a policy he established at the smaller American Family that he hopes to continue at PCH.
 

 

16 Edward Kim
President and general manager, Cigna Arizona and Cigna Medical Group
Age: 55
Rank last year: 13
Cigna was the last insurer to pull out of the ACA exchange in Maricopa County, following the exit of Aetna, Health Choice, Humana, UnitedHealth, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Net and Phoenix Health Plans. Now, Cigna Medical Group will act as a medical provider for consumers who purchase ACA plans in Maricopa County through Centene, the late arriver to capture Arizona’s dropped enrollees. Kim presides over the group, which has about 100 doctors and 50 advanced-practice nurses that Centene’s public exchange members will be able to see at lower, in-network rates. In January, the company also celebrated the grand opening of the Cigna Medical Group Sun City Multi-Specialty Center, which provides specialty services including audiology, ophthalmology, optometry and podiatry along with urgent care and basic hospital services.
 

 

17 Tom Betlach
Director of Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS)
Age: 50
Rank last year: 12
When the Affordable Care Act passed, giving states the option to extend Medicaid coverage to more people whose household income fell below the federal poverty level, AHCCCS director Betlach devised an ingenious, if controversial, way to cover the additional costs: collect a $265 million-a-year levy on hospitals. Hospitals agreed to the deal because it meant more insured patients and fewer unpaid bills, and then-governor Jan Brewer approved it. Now the court is examining whether the levy is considered a legal “assessment” or a tax, which may have been enacted illegally. That would put the approximately 400,000 Maricopa County residents covered under the extension at risk of losing Medicaid benefits. If that happens, Betlach will need to get creative again – and that’s not even taking into account what becomes of Medicaid if the ACA gets repealed.
 

 

18 Gretchen Alexander, M.D.
President, Arizona Medical Association
Age: 55
Rank last year: NR
After succeeding cardiologist Nathan Laufer as the 125th president of ArMA at its annual meeting in Phoenix last June, Alexander kicked off her one-year term with a bombshell: ArMA would launch an investigation into worrisome activity at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. The investigation cast both Alexander and the organization in unusual roles. Alexander, after all, is a psychiatrist with an emphasis in addiction medicine, not a gumshoe; and ArMA is a voluntary membership org for doctors, not a district attorney’s office. Still, it was ArMA’s inquiry – conducted formally by the Arizona Board of Regents – and subsequent vote of no confidence that led to the resignation of UA senior vice president of health sciences Dr. Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia for financial improprieties, including 56 bills for chauffeured trips between Tucson and Phoenix totaling more than $34,000. Let it be known: This shrink isn’t just here for the handshakes and coffee.
 

 

19 Craig Phelps
President, A.T. Still University of Health Sciences
Age: 60
Rank last year: NR
Since debuting in Mesa in 2006, A.T. Still University has distinguished itself as, arguably, the more prestigious of the state’s two Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) schools. Modeled on founder Andrew Taylor Still’s frontier-era techniques of manipulating joints and bones to diagnose and treat illness, the university – which was founded in Kirksville, Mo., in 1892 and maintains a campus there – found a perfect 21st century leader in Phelps, who served as the primary care physician for the NBA Phoenix Suns and WNBA Phoenix Mercury as well as Ballet Arizona. Practicing for more than 25 years in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Phelps now divides his time between Arizona and Missouri.
 

 

 

20 Leigh Neumayer, M.D.
Interim senior vice president for health sciences, University of Arizona College of Medicine
Age: 57
Rank last year: NR
Following the resignation of Dr. Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia in December, Neumayer, previously chair of the Department of Surgery at the College of Medicine-Tucson (the first woman to hold that post), was appointed to serve as the interim senior VP for Health Sciences this year. An accomplished breast cancer surgeon and researcher, Neumayer revitalized the Department of Surgery in Tucson by restoring critically important, high-end programs such as the kidney, liver, lung, heart and pancreas transplant programs, and established a working relationship with the college’s Banner colleagues.
 

 

21 RimaAnn Nelson
Director, Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System
Age: 51
Rank last year: NR
The Phoenix VA Medical Center – still struggling to overcome its image as the epicenter of the Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014, in which at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care at the facility – drew more scrutiny after appointing RimaAnn Nelson as director in October 2016. After all, she’s the seventh such person to hold the job in less than three years. Previously, Nelson headed up the St. Louis VA center, when sterilization violations forced a weeklong shutdown of the dental department. Arizona Sen. John McCain opposed her appointment, citing Nelson’s “total lack of experience implementing the Veteran Choice Card,” a program allowing veterans to pursue healthcare outside of VA facilities. Nevertheless, Department of Veterans Affairs undersecretary David Shulkin praised Nelson as a leader who is “decisive… and capable of managing this type of complex organization.” Here’s hoping the seventh time’s the charm.
 

 

22 Peggy Chase
CEO of Terros Health
Age: 60
Rank last year: NR
Chase took over Terros, the 48-year-old organization providing addiction treatment, mental health counseling and psychiatric services, in 2010 after previous CEO Dale Rinard left with a $749,944 compensation package that included a $65,928 bonus and a $452,119 lump-sum retirement payment – a disclosure that came at a bad time, while state mental health services for the poor were being cut. Chase, a former Michigan farmer whose first job in Arizona was on a fraud and embezzlement team for a Tempe CPA firm, promises to run a leaner machine. Her latest task has been to assist Gov. Ducey and other Arizona leaders in combating opioid abuse by requiring doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing addictive pain medications and offering free training for doctors on how to prescribe opioid drugs.
 

 

23 Joseph Gaudio
CEO, UHC Community Plan of Arizona
Age: 51
Rank last year: NR
Gaudio heads up the Medicaid division of UnitedHealthcare within UnitedHealth Group, which has more than 600,000 Medicaid members on its plan – the largest in the state. At a time when the future of Medicaid in Arizona is threatened, Gaudio has been strategically building safety nets within the Valley’s most vulnerable communities. The executive, who joined the company in 1999 as chief financial officer, was instrumental in spearheading a UHC partnership with Arizona’s largest nonprofit community-development organization, Chicanos Por La Causa, providing access to $20 million in capital to help the organization create an affordable, multifamily housing complex and deliver support services to residents.
 

 

24 Carol Olson, M.D.
Head of department of psychiatry, Maricopa Integrated Health System
Age: 54
Rank last year: NR
Each year, approximately 2,000 felony defendants undergo what’s called a Rule 11 hearing in Maricopa County courts to determine whether they are mentally competent to undergo a trial or are referred for court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. In cases of the latter, those defendants most often end up at Maricopa Integrated Health System’s Department of Psychiatry, one of Arizona’s largest behavioral health centers, with two behavioral health hospitals and 219 licensed beds. Olson oversees the center, and has been a critic of law enforcement reliance on it as a long-term “lockup” for criminally prone, mentally ill citizens. As chairman of Arizona’s Psychiatric Security Review Board in addition to her post with MIHS, Olson has become a vital voice in the ongoing debate over how best to handle individuals when mental illness and criminal justice collide.
 

 

25 Eric Reiman
CEO, Banner Research
Age: 61
Rank last year: NR
Reiman gained fame as executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, where the former practicing psychiatrist stumbled on a formula for determining the genetic risk for Alzheimer’s by observing how the brain changes before patients develop symptoms. That led to his creation of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, a think tank for researchers and physicians. In addition to his current post as CEO of Banner Research, Reiman is also clinical director of the Neurogenomics Division at TGen and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona. Originally considered an outsider to the field of neurology, Reiman is today regarded as a trailblazer in modern brain mapping research.
 

 

Off the List
The top healthcare leaders from 2016 who are notably absent on this year’s list.

Elizabeth Holmes
CEO, Theranos
Age: 33
Rank last year: 14
Even Forbes, TIME and Fortune bet wrong on the part-time Scottsdale resident and med-tech disruptor, who was banned from the blood-testing biz after a federal investigation turned up irregularities at Theranos’ California laboratory. Walgreens severed its partnership with the firm soon after, and Forbes revalued its one-time cover-girl with this headline: “From $4.5 Billion to Nothing.”

Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, M.D.
Senior vice president for health sciences, University of Arizona College of Medicine
Age: 63
Rank last year: 20
As noted in this year’s list, Garcia resigned following an Arizona Medical Association-led investigation that uncovered billings for upgraded airline seats and chauffeured trips for his frequent trips around the state and nation. Garcia, who was among the university’s highest-paid employees with a total compensation of $870,000, has since returned to teaching at the Tucson medical school, where he holds a tenured appointment.

J.P. Holyoak
Owner of Arizona Natural Selections and chairman of the Campaign to regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol
Age: 40
Rank last year: 24
Holyoak – a lifelong Republican who became an unlikely champion of medical marijuana while using it to treat his young daughter’s epileptic seizures – was the point man behind Proposition 205, the initiative regulating the use of recreational marijuana, on the November 2016 Arizona ballot. Arizona voters rejected Prop 205 by a slim margin, but Holyoak vowed to renew the measure on the 2018 ballot.

John Kapoor, Ph.D.
Chairman, president and CEO, INSYS Therapeutics
Age: 73
Rank last year: 9
Kapoor, an Indian immigrant who rose from poverty to become one of the Valley’s select group of billionaires, retired as president and CEO of cancer-drug company INSYS Therapeutics – which he founded – in January. He remains a member of the board.

–PM