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This story was updated Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, at 9:05 p.m. with more information.

some text Dr. William Jackson, new CEO of Erlanger Health Systems / Photo contributed by Erlanger

Erlanger's chief medical officer, Dr. William Jackson, has been named CEO of Erlanger Health System, replacing former CEO Kevin Spiegel.

Phil Smartt, vice chairman of Erlanger's board, made the motion to appoint Jackson as CEO and trustees approved during a special called meeting Wednesday — one week after Spiegel left his post at Chattanooga's largest hospital.

Trustees also agreed to pay Spiegel severance of one year's salary — $964,000 — plus cash equivalent for the cost of continuing health insurance benefits.

In his new role, Jackson will manage operations of the nation's 10th largest public hospital system, which encompasses six acute-care hospitals, a behavioral health hospital, a multi-specialty physician group practice and an academic teaching program affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

Trustees decided to appoint Jackson as CEO with a one-year contract, as opposed to giving him the title of interim CEO.

"To go with the uncertainty of an interim title would put Erlanger in a position of not being able to move forward," Trustee Gerald Webb said.

The move will provide needed stability and allow the board to gauge Jackson's performance within a "relatively short period of time," Webb said.

Board Chairman Mike Griffin said the interim position has not traditionally been a "successful vehicle" for the hospital.

"We have a lot of confidence in [Jackson] and his abilities and feel like he's the right man for the job," Griffin said, adding that Jackson was chosen because of his commitment to "building up the employees" and his "concentration on patient quality care."

Although Griffin initially said Spiegel's successor would be chosen Sept. 26 during the board's regularly scheduled meeting, he said on Wednesday that it was "very critical that we fill this leadership post at this time."

The details of Jackson's employment agreement will be determined at the Sept. 26 meeting.

As the chief medical officer, Jackson supported Erlanger's medical staff and oversaw hospital quality, safety, Erlanger Medical Group, physician services, research, medical affairs, and inpatient and outpatient care delivery for the health system, according to Erlanger's website.

Jackson is board certified in both internal medicine and critical care medicine. He received his medical degree from the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana, and completed his postgraduate training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He completed his Master of Business Administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

some text Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Erlanger Health System President and CEO Kevin Spiegel looks on during a meeting at Erlanger on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Jackson edged out 30-year Erlanger veteran Gregg Gentry — the board's other likely CEO choice — for the leadership position.

Gentry joined Erlanger in 1989 and has worked in human resources, marketing, public relations, development and other departments. In his current position as Erlanger's chief administrative officer, Gentry worked closely with Spiegel — whom Gentry called his "ultimate mentor" — on strategy and governance and was responsible for administrative areas of Erlanger's seven hospitals.

"We feel like [Jackson and Gentry] are both invaluable to the organization, and I truly believe that [Gentry] will stay on in his role and will be a great asset to [Jackson]," Griffin said after the meeting adjourned.

Erlanger is the largest regional provider of care for indigent patients and includes the only children's hospital within 100 miles, the fourth largest interventional stroke program in the United States, the country's seventh busiest emergency department and the region's only Level 1 trauma center, which treats the most severe injuries.

Erlanger is governed by an 11-member board of trustees who are appointed and serve without compensation.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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