Sutter Health, a not-for-profit integrated healthcare system serving more than 3 million patients across Northern California, announced today it has appointed Warner L. Thomas as its next president and CEO, effective Dec. 1, 2022.
For the past 10 years, Thomas has served as the president and CEO of Ochsner Health. Ochsner is nationally recognized for its clinical leadership and includes 40 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals, and more than 300 health centers and urgent care centers. Ochsner is the largest private employer in Louisiana, with 36,000 employees and more than 4,600 employed and affiliated physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties. Ochsner also conducts more than 700 clinical research studies each year. During his tenure, Thomas helped grow the organization’s digital health capabilities and value-based payer partnerships – and expanded its integrated care network to serve more than 1.4 million patients each year.
“After a comprehensive national search, we are thrilled to have found the right leader for the next chapter of Sutter Health. Warner is a CEO grounded in Sutter’s community roots and values,” said Gubby Barlow, chair of Sutter Health’s Board of Directors. “As the first external CEO of this organization in more than 40 years, Warner brings a fresh perspective, strategic vision and an exceptional ability to navigate the dynamic healthcare landscape. We look forward to welcoming him to the Sutter Health family.”
Thomas is passionate about community impact and has made critical investments and commitments to advance diversity, equity and inclusion, both within Ochsner and its surrounding communities. This includes the development of a population health focus leading the organization to unprecedented performance in nationally ranked quality results. As part of these efforts, Thomas initiated multiple programs – including a major 10-year Healthy State initiative, with $100 million committed in the first five years – to successfully improve access to quality, equitable healthcare for underserved communities.
“I’m honored to be joining Sutter Health, where I’m committed to furthering its patient-focused mission as a leading not-for-profit integrated healthcare system. As the landscape continues to evolve, I believe there are opportunities for Sutter Health to continue to advance the future of healthcare,” Thomas said. “Leaning on my years of experience growing complex, integrated healthcare systems through developing medical programs, expanding physician networks and creating new payer partnerships, I’m excited to help build on Sutter Health’s past successes. I look forward to helping shape an era of equitable, accessible and affordable healthcare with long-lasting benefits to Sutter Health’s patients and communities in Northern California.”
Known as a grounded-yet-visionary leader, and the first non-physician CEO at Ochsner, Thomas has demonstrated the ability to connect with the physician community by engaging them in the strategic decision-making process, as well as building physician and administrative leadership programs to support the improved delivery of care. Ochsner has been ranked as the No. 1 hospital in Louisiana by U.S. News & World Report for over a decade. The organization is also consistently ranked as the top children’s hospital in Louisiana by U.S. News & World Report and is nationally ranked for its pediatric specialty care. Ochsner was also named one of the “100 Greatest Hospitals in America” by Becker’s Hospital Review.
Thomas values innovation and has driven transformative change to benefit patients and communities in the Gulf South. In his current role, Thomas expanded digital capabilities at Ochsner, from building a robust platform allowing patients to keep track of their information to a comprehensive telemedicine platform. He also created the team that launched innovationOchsner, a think tank and health tech incubator focused on digital health, advanced analytics and personalized medicine.
“In service to Sutter Health’s legacy of caring for patients and deep roots in the community, the Sutter Health Board of Directors chose Thomas through a comprehensive, rigorous and transparent search process that included strong involvement and perspective from physicians and senior leaders across the organization,” said Cheryl Scott, a member of the Sutter Health Board of Directors and chair of the Board’s CEO Search Committee. “We’re pleased to have found such a highly-qualified candidate with Warner’s exceptional track record to lead Sutter Health. The Board would also like to thank our interim CEO James Conforti for his significant role this year as a steady hand and steward of the organization.”
Thomas will succeed Conforti, Sutter Health’s chief operating officer who has been serving as interim CEO since January 2022.