MANCHESTER — A physician who has spent his entire career at Catholic Medical Center took the reins of the organization he's been leading on an interim basis since mid-January, as Joseph Pepe officially became the hospital's new president and chief executive officer Tuesday.
Pepe started as a doctor at CMC in 1990 and has held a variety of executive positions at the medical center over the years, serving most recently as acting interim CEO while a nationwide search was under way.
Despite a large field of qualified candidates, the search committee was unanimous in its selection of Pepe, due mostly to his "deep institutional knowledge, commitment and the passion he presents for the hospital and its Catholic identity," said Centrix Bank President and CEO Joseph R. Reilly, search committee chairman.
Pepe replaces Alyson Pitman Giles, who stepped down as CMC's president and CEO in mid-January after 13 years as the hospital's chief executive.
Reilly was joined by CMC Board Chairman Joe Graham, vice president of Clear Channel Media, and the Rev. Peter A. Libasci, Bishop of Manchester, in making the announcement to a room full of staff, media and diocese representatives at the medical center.
After two years of controversy — including an ill-fated merger attempt with Dartmouth-Hitchock, a critical report by the state attorney general on hospital executive compensation and the sudden resignation of the hospital's chief spokesperson this summer — the search committee was looking for stability.
"We feel a strong sense that the staff will be overjoyed with this news because it will provide some stability and some certainty as to the leadership style," Reilly said. "Joe is a very thoughtful listener. He is a consensus-builder who will put the organization first, and he will do it in a quiet, effective manner."
Reilly also cited Pepe's experience as a general practitioner and chief medical officer at the hospital.
"We believe that in going forward, in the changing health-care landscape, that a physician CEO will be very beneficial," Reilly said. "He is very well-respected by the entire staff, senior management and physicians."
Reilly also alluded to Pepe's interest in the need to enhance CMC's outreach in the community and strategic partnerships with other hospitals — a theme reiterated by the new CEO in an interview after the announcement.
He referred to CMC's relationship with other hospitals in the Manchester area as a blend of competition and cooperation, or "coopetition," a term used to describe strategic cooperation among competitors that enhances the value of each organization.
"Our goal is to have more cooperation and less competition as we move forward," Pepe said, pointing to a recent public-health initiative focused on prescription drug safety in cooperation with Elliot Health Systems and Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
Pepe graduated from St. Anselm College in 1983 with a B.A. in biology, received his medical degree from Tufts University in 1987, and completed his internship and residency at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., before beginning his career as a general practitioner at CMC.
He has served a chief medical officer since 2000.
CEO compensation at New Hampshire's nonprofit hospitals came under scrutiny by Attorney General Michael A. Delaney in a report released in July.
At the time, Delaney noted that the total compensation paid to Pitman Giles at CMC had more than doubled over four years — to $1.36 million in 2008 — and was significantly higher than her peers.
Graham said the attorney general's recommendations were taken into consideration in developing Pepe's compensation package.
Although he could not provide an annual amount, Graham said Pepe's compensation will be "significantly lower than his predecessor and will be in line with what salary consultants and the attorney general's report recommend."
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