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CHI Memorial hospital in Chattanooga

CHI Memorial has chosen the former chief operating officer of a chain of hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin to be its new chief executive officer.

The hospital's board of directors and its parent organization, Catholic Health Initiatives, announced Monday afternoon that Larry Schumacher, the former systems chief operating officer for Hospital Sisters Health Systems, based in Springfield, Ill., will take over its top management position, starting Jan. 4.

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Larry Schumacher

Schumacher has a strong background in nursing, beginning his career at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in critical care and nursing. He has a degree in nursing from the Burge School of Nursing in Springfield, Mo., a bachelor of science in nursing from Missouri State University, and a master of science in nursing from Indiana University. He has served in a variety of nursing leadership roles, including staff nurse, charge nurse, nurse director and chief nursing officer.

Dr. Chris Smith, director of the School of Nursing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, welcomed Schumacher's appointment.

"The response from nursing staff on having a nurse in the CEO role, in my opinion, will be overwhelmingly positive," she said. "Nursing leaders are able to share insight between what is needed at the bedside and what is important to the institution on an operational level."

Hospital Sisters Health Systems operates 14 acute care hospitals with annual revenue of $2.1 billion. Schumacher served as chief operating officer for HSHS for eight years.

Prior to that, he served as president and chief executive officer of Via Christi Health Network in Wichita, Kan., and as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mercy Health Network in Des Moines, Iowa.

"The board, medical staff, and leadership were very impressed with Larry's long-standing, successful career in Catholic healing ministry," said Peter Banko, CHI Memorial CEO and senior vice president, operations and group executive officer at CHI. "We are truly blessed to now have Larry's talents and 35 years of clinical and leadership experience leading the CHI Memorial team."

Sister Judy Raley, chairwoman of Memorial's Board of Directors, agreed.

"What impressed us most about Larry is his extensive experience in Catholic health care, as well as his passion for building excellent physician and community relationships," Raley said. "He has a proven record of leadership, a solid health care operations background and accomplishments in a variety of complex settings."

Schumacher left HSHS in April 2015 after an apparent disagreement with Mary Starmann-Harrison, president and CEO of the system, according to an article in the State Journal-Register. At the time, Starmann-Harrison issued a statement, saying she and Schumacher "have mutually agreed he will leave HSHS after recognizing that our philosophical approaches to leading the organization are not fully aligned."

Former CHI Memorial CEO James M. Hobson resigned in July.

The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce listed Memorial as the fifth-largest employer in town in its 2015 rankings, with more than 2,800 employees. In comparison, Erlanger hospital has 3,600 employees, and Parkridge Medical Center 1,250. Memorial's gross patient revenue was $1.8 billion, according to the American Hospital Directory's latest report.

Memorial was founded as a nonprofit hospital in 1952 and was run by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth until 1997, when the hospital joined CHI.

With 89 hospitals and hundreds of outpatient centers, assisted living and other facilities in 18 states, CHI is one of the nation's largest nonprofit health systems.

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at sjohnson@timesfreepress.com, 423-757-6673, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, and on Facebook at stevejohnsonTFP.

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