Partners HealthCare named its first female chief executive Tuesday when it elevated interim CEO Dr. Anne Klibanski to be its permanent leader.
Klibanski has led the company since February, when Dr. David Torchiana left his role as CEO. The Partners board initially announced it would hold a national search process but in a statement Tuesday said that it was “increasingly clear” to the board of directors that Klibanski was the “ideal leader” for the health care giant.
Partners is Massachusetts’ largest hospital network and the largest private employer in the state and Klibanski faces a complex balancing act to weigh the goals of Partners’ corporate office, hospitals, doctors, and patients.
Here are five things to know about the new CEO, who begins her permanent position at a time when Partners is rethinking its companywide strategy.
She is a physician with a deep research and clinical background in neuroendocrine disorders and pituitary tumors
Klibanski was recently the chief of the neuroendocrine unit, which involves the study of hormones and the nervous system, at Mass. General Hospital, where she started working in 1978. In 1997, she was the first woman from Mass. General’s department of medicine to earn the prestigious rank of full professor at Harvard.
She is known for her mentorship of women scientists and doctors
Klibanski has drawn praise from peers and trainees, who have described her as a person who can see the big picture without losing sight of the details. One mentee said she entered neuroendocrinology specifically as a result of Klibanski’s mentorship and another noted than Klibanski supported women who were raising families by judging them on the quality of the work they produced, not when it was submitted.
Named among the top 25 women leaders in health care by “Modern Healthcare,” she has said she considers mentoring one of the greatest achievements of her professional life.
She appears comfortable with innovation and has been responsible for academic and professional expansion
Klibanski became Partners’ Chief Academic Officer in 2012, overseeing the $1.8 billion research arm of the health care company. Previously, in her role in MGH’s neuroendocrine unit, she established the first multidisciplinary clinic and research center at Mass. General.
In her opening remarks at the 2019 World Medical Innovation Forum in Boston, she pivoted from the effects of artificial intelligence, to the appeal and danger of “Big Data,” to the use of advanced therapies on innovation in medicine. Her experience in research and innovation will undoubtedly play a role in her tenure as Partners’ CEO.
She is not as experienced in corporate expansion and public advocacy
When she was named the interim CEO in February, Klibanski was entering a conversation fraught with transition. Torchiana had assembled task forces to examine Partners’ governance, brand, capital priorities, operating structure, and other areas. The health care giant, formed in the union of Mass. General and Brigham and Women’s, was facing questions about its scope and priorities. The system’s two main clinical centers have a history of maintaining their own leadership teams and growth strategies.
Klibanski, a physician and academic who has spent decades at MGH, will have to tackle questions of corporate consensus in her new role, although Partners’ board chair Scott Sperling has said the two hospital giants have had “dramatically better” relations in recent years.
She has a reputation as a listener and careful decision-maker
Dr. Ravi Thadhani, Partners’ former head of clinical trials said that Klibanski is “clearly somebody who listens more than acts, at least early on.” Colleagues said she remains calm in tenses situations and Thadhani, now the vice dean for research and education at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Klibanski knows how to build consensus across different parts of the organization. Sperling referred to her as “a proven leader” in a press release upon her selection as interim CEO and coworkers have praised her preparedness and patience.