The man tapped Thursday as the CEO of the soon-to-be created University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center is known for his work in oncology, but for the last few years has been working toward a career on the administrative side of the hospital business.
Radiation oncologist Dr. Mohan Suntha will take over as president and CEO of the Towson hospital Dec. 1, when the University of Maryland Medical System is expected to complete its acquisition of St. Joseph Medical Center from Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives.
The transfer comes as St. Joseph tries to regain stability after its star cardiologist, Dr. Mark Midei, was accused of giving stents to hundreds of patients who may not have needed the procedure. Midei has denied any wrongdoing and said he wasn't doing anything differently than other doctors around the country.
Suntha, 48, has spent most of his professional career at UMMS, where he became a resident of the department of radiation oncology in 1991. He is now vice chairman of the radiation oncology department and an associate director of clinical affairs at the university's cancer center. His research has focused on thoracic and head and neck malignancies.
Three years ago Suntha received an MBA from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and began working on administrative issues at UMMS, playing an integral part in the aggressive expansion efforts of the medical system. UMMS has doubled in size to 12 hospitals in the past six years, expanding its reach to almost every corner of the state.
Suntha helped with the acquisition of Upper Chesapeake Health in Havre de Grace and played a part in the St. Joseph acquisition, said former state Sen. Francis X. Kelly, a UMMS board member who will chair the board of the new entity.
"We noticed as he worked on [the acquisitions] that people responded to him and liked him," said Kelly, who will work closely with Suntha on repositioning the new hospital. "We realized we didn't need to do a national search because we had the right man here."
Suntha was not available for an interview Thursday. The Timonium resident is a 1986 graduate of Brown University and earned his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1990.
Suntha said in a statement that he looked forward to working with the staff at St. Joseph.
"[I] am excited to get the business arrangements finalized and get to work," he said. "We have challenges to overcome, but all the ingredients are there at St. Joseph, and with the University of Maryland partnership, we have tremendous opportunities ahead of us."
Kelly said Suntha will remain on the medical school faculty and will continue to practice medicine once a week.
"With us he's a proven executive in addition to being a great physician," Kelly said.
The acquisition of St. Joseph will be completed pending federal regulatory approval. About 2,000 people work at the hospital.
Employees began receiving information Thursday about their employment status at the new organization. Some workers will remain employed at St. Joseph, while others will become employees of UMMS.
Completion of the acquisition would come nearly a year after St. Joseph sought a buyer. The Midei case led to financial troubles for the hospital as well as a loss of patients and staff.
UMMS won a bidding competition for St. Joseph over two other finalists, LifeBridge Health, which owns Sinai and Northwest hospitals, and Ascension Health, which owns Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore.
Suntha follows a succession of two CEOs the hospital has had since 2009, when Jeffrey K. Norman had been brought in during a management shake-up after the stent accusations. Charles W. Neumann, who had served as an interim leader of at least two other embattled health care facilities, replaced Norman in 2011.
Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this report.