Tufts Medical Center has named the leader of a Canadian children’s hospital as its new chief executive.
Dr. Michael Apkon will take the CEO job in the fall, Tufts officials announced Wednesday. Apkon currently leads the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Apkon, a Framingham native trained in pediatric intensive care, previously held leadership roles at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.
“The opportunity to join one of the most influential health care markets in North America, in a city I like a lot, that’s close to friends and family, is a really compelling opportunity,” Apkon, 58, said in an interview.
The top job at Tufts became available earlier this year when Dr. Michael Wagner left to take a new position, chief physician executive, at Tufts’ parent company. That company, Wellforce, also includes Lowell General Hospital and MelroseWakefield Healthcare.
Tufts is a 415-bed academic medical center located in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, and includes a pediatric hospital. The hospital has struggled at times to compete with Boston’s other teaching hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, which are owned by Partners HealthCare. Tufts leaders have complained that they are underpaid by insurers for providing the same services as these competing hospitals.
Tufts and Wellforce officials also have sounded alarms about the planned merger of two other competitors, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health. That deal is under review by state and federal regulators.
Tufts was the site of a contentious nurses strike last summer. Nurses walked out for one day, and hospital officials locked them out for four additional days. The hospital and the Massachusetts Nurses Association reached a contract agreement in January.
In the months that followed, the hospital worked with a recruiting firm to find a new CEO. But Apkon initially learned of the job another way: a text from his daughter, who is a medical student at Tufts University. (The university is affiliated with the hospital.)
The search for a new leader yielded more than 100 potential candidates, said Joe Campanelli, chairman of the hospital’s board. The list was narrowed to about 25, then to six. Apkon was among three finalists who came back to Tufts for another interview.
The hospital was looking for someone who wanted to stay in the role for five or 10 years, Campanelli said.
“It was real clear that Dr. Apkon had the best alignment with Tufts’ brand and culture,” he said.
Though he grew up in Massachusetts, Apkon left the state at 18 to attend college at Northwestern University, where he earned the first of several degrees. He has worked as a scientist, doing research in a lab, and as a physician treating patients. He still sees patients in Toronto, but he said he’s not yet sure if he’ll continue that in Boston.
As head of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for the past four years, Apkon gained experience working in a single-payer health care system. The financial model is different than in the United States, Apkon said, but many of the challenges remain the same — including the challenge to contain costs.
Apkon said he is starting to learn about opportunities for better integrating medical services across the Tufts and Wellforce networks, and for expanding their reach.
“Boston is a very competitive market,” he added. “The competition creates some urgency around innovation.”