Dr. Jonathan Lewin is stepping down as Emory Healthcare CEO and chairman after six years — a period that saw strong growth in the Atlanta-based system.
Lewin, who is also executive vice president for health affairs of Emory University and executive director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, will remain in all the positions until a successor is named.
Over his tenure, Emory Healthcare has increased its operating revenue and expanded its clinical reach in metro Atlanta and the state, adding DeKalb Medical Center to its system.
The overall Emory health/medical organization “is incredibly strong, and is in the best shape that it’s been,’’ Lewin, 62, said after the news was announced. “The leadership has never been stronger.’’
“It’s the right time.’’
During his tenure at Emory, employment in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center has grown to about 34,000, a 35% increase. Health sciences research has seen 57% growth in funding to total $847 million in 2021.
Lewin has overseen the purchase and development of Emory’s Executive Park campus, the opening of the Emory University Hospital tower, the Hawks practice/sports medicine facility, the Musculoskeletal Institute, numerous outpatient sites and the still-in-progress Winship at Emory Midtown tower.
After he steps down, Lewin will join the Emory faculty, “returning to my roots in innovation, education and technology development,” he said.
“I cannot overstate what an incredible privilege it has been to lead both the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and Emory Healthcare. I remain incredibly impressed by all parts of Emory health sciences and the health care system,” said Lewin.
He said he had been reflecting on the move for some time. He said he wanted, like Orioles Hall of Fame player Cal Ripken Jr, “to go out at the top of your game.’’
“I’m looking forward to visiting my adult kids and spending [more] time with my wife,” Lewin added.
Emory took a leading position in combating the pandemic.
It conducted clinical trials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, and worked with Pfizer on developing the pediatric vaccine. Emory also held trials of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as well as Remdesivir, a medication used to treat hospitalized COVID patients. Emory researchers, Lewin said, designed an oral antiviral pill that’s now up for consideration for approval by the FDA.
Also during the pandemic, Lewin helped coordinate communication among major hospital systems in dealing with the unprecedented challenge that Covid posed.
Emory joined Piedmont, Wellstar, Grady, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Northeast Georgia to talk over issues like surges in cases and shortages of supplies.
These leaders shared best medical practices and worked to create common messaging to an uncertain public. Communication on when to stop elective surgeries – and when to resume them – was part of the process, as was discussion of practical topics like how to screen visitors to hospitals.
“It was one of the silver linings of the pandemic,’’ Lewin told GHN last year. The result projected “a sense of calm and cohesiveness across the community,’’ he said. “It was a common approach to a common problem.’’
Dr. Robert Jansen, chief medical officer at Grady Health System, said Monday that Lewin “has been an incredible partner’' for the Atlanta safety-net provider.
Lewin has cemented the relationship between the Emory School of Medicine, Grady and Morehouse School of Medicine, Jansen said. “His contribution has been tremendous. He has been an incredible friend and ally.’’
Lewin, in a letter to Emory employees Friday, said the decision to step down was “tremendously bittersweet’' for him.
Emory President Gregory L. Fenves said in a statement that Lewin “has provided steadfast leadership to Emory, and I am grateful for all he has done to serve patients here in Atlanta and in communities across Georgia as head of the most comprehensive academic health care system in the state.”
“He strengthened Emory Healthcare, significantly growing the organization, expanding the health care network, establishing vital partnerships, recruiting key leaders throughout the enterprise, focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion, and last year pivoting EHC to serve our community in response to the Covid-19 crisis with some of the best patient outcomes in the country.”
Andy Miller is editor of Georgia Health News.