New Sanford leadership team involves some personnel changes

Dec. 9, 2020

Newly appointed Sanford Health CEO Bill Gassen has named his new executive leadership team, and it looks different from his predecessor.

Gassen took over for longtime CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft in late November.

The most notable change to his leadership team is the departure of chief medical officer Dr. Allison Suttle, who had been in the role since 2015 and a visible presence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The role of chief medical officer has been replaced by the new role of chief physician. Dr. Jeremy Cauwels will serve in that role. He has been with Sanford Health since 2006 and served as senior vice president of clinic quality since 2018, leading safety, quality and patient experience for the organization.

Suttle, who also served Sanford as an OB-GYN, decided to leave the organization, Gassen said.

“And we wish her the absolute best,” he said. “We’re thankful for the services she provided this organization … and I’m confident she’ll be successful in the future.”

Gassen’s executive leadership team is slightly smaller than Krabbenhoft’s but has some new additions.

“With the recent changes, it provided an opportunity to reset who sits around the CEO’s table and utilize this opportunity to bring the people and the functional areas around the table that align to our three priorities of our patients, our people and our communities,” he said.

Micah Aberson, who Gassen referred to as his “No. 2,” will serve as the executive vice president with oversight of Sanford Health Plan, Sanford’s Foundation, Sanford Sports, marketing, public policy, business development, innovation and research functions. The health plan, sports and business development are new areas of responsibility for him.

Matt Hocks, chief operating officer, will continue to oversee the health services division, including The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. He also will pick up responsibility for facilities and technology services.

Bill Marlette, chief financial officer and treasurer, will be responsible for the organization’s corporate contracting and finances.

Darren Walker, who has been serving as chief human resources officer, is taking on a new title of chief people officer and will lead the well-being of employees, all human resources functions, diversity and inclusion, and military and veterans affairs.

Jennifer Grennan, chief legal officer, will lead legal, risk and compliance for the enterprise.

Nathan Peterson, chief of staff, will oversee the enterprise data and analytics team, enterprise project management, strategic planning and community benefit functions.

Dr. David Shulkin will assume a strategic adviser role for Sanford Health.

Three members of the executive leadership team will not report to Gassen. Kimber Severson, chief marketing officer, will join the team and continue reporting to Aberson, with responsibility for all marketing and communications as well as community relations.

Cauwels, who reports to Hocks, also will be on the executive leadership team and provide what Gassen called a singular physician voice that is representative and “brings to the table a lot of credibility, trust and respect from our physicians.”

Newly named chief nursing officer Erica DeBoer also will report to Hocks and be part of the executive leadership team. She has more than 20 years of experience as a front-line registered nurse and most recently has served as senior executive director of clinical informatics.

Other than Suttle, no other leaders have departed from the organization, Gassen said. The various market leaders, including Paul Hanson in Sioux Falls, will continue to report to Hocks. Some previously announced retirements, vice president of community relations Mike Begeman and chief business development officer Kim Patrick, will take effect as planned yet this year.

“I thought it was important to make sure we provided stability to the organization and certainty,” Gassen said. “We’ve gone through a lot of change in these last couple weeks, and I thought it was very important to settle who was going to be on the executive leadership team and get that communicated out to the organization quickly.”

While it’s possible strategic planning will result in adding slightly to the team, for now it’s set with no changes in the foreseeable future, he said.

“I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to work alongside this team. I’ve gotten to know them. I’ve gotten to trust them,” Gassen said. “I’m fortunate we have such an incredible team that’s not only talented in their functional areas … but they have the right character, the right passion, and they care about the things that are important to me in this organization.”

Krabbenhoft, Sanford Health agree to ‘part ways’

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New Sanford leadership team involves some personnel changes

Newly appointed Sanford Health CEO Bill Gassen has named his new executive leadership team, and it looks different from his predecessor.

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