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Wellforce health system names new CEO

Michael J. Dandorph
Michael J. DandorphWellforce

A new chief executive will join the Wellforce health system next month as it faces heightened competition in the Massachusetts health care market.

Michael J. Dandorph will begin the new role in mid-January after working as a health care executive in Chicago and Philadelphia. Most recently, he was president of Rush University System for Health and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He previously spent several years at Penn Medicine.

At Wellforce, he will oversee a system that includes Tufts Medical Center, Lowell General Hospital, and MelroseWakefield Healthcare. It has more than 13,000 employees, and more than 2,000 physicians.

Dandorph, 51, is new to the Massachusetts market. In an interview Wednesday, he said he will spend several months developing a strategic plan for the organization. That plan may include strategies for raising the profile of Tufts Medical Center, a teaching hospital in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, as well as ways to expand health care services in community settings close to where patients live.

“We’ll be thinking about how to be an incredibly convenient and high-quality care provider,” he said.

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Founded in 2014, Wellforce competes with several other hospital systems in Massachusetts, including the two largest, Partners HealthCare and Beth Israel Lahey Health. Wellforce executives opposed the merger that created Beth Israel Lahey Health earlier this year, arguing it would result in a market controlled by a duopoly of expensive hospital systems.

“It’ll be a competitive market,” Dandorph said. “Wellforce has a little bit of an advantage: it’s a little bit smaller, it can be somewhat nimbler. We need to find ways to use that to our advantage.”

The Wellforce board has been searching nationally for a new CEO since Normand Deschene retired at the end of 2018. Dr. Michael Wagner has been serving as interim CEO and will return to his previous role as the organization’s chief physician executive.

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Ellen Zane, chairwoman of the Wellforce board, said Dandorph brings broad experience in health care and strong communication skills to the position.

“Wellforce remains a relatively young company,” she said. “I believe that a true leader is going to be very important.”

The company earned less than $1 million on operations in the 2019 fiscal year, on revenue of more than $2 billion.

Earlier this year, Wellforce executives were negotiating a deal with South Shore Health, which includes a large community hospital in Weymouth. Those discussions slowed when South Shore’s chief executive, Dr. Gene E. Green, was suspended, and later left his job amid an investigation into his conduct.

Zane said Wellforce is open to continuing merger discussions with South Shore. But she added that “the day has to come where we don’t talk just about size, but we talk about value.”


Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.