Northwell nabs seasoned exec for community effort

Local legend: Community-focused medicine has been a career cornerstone for new Northwell Health Senior VP Ram Raju.

The former head of the nation’s largest public health system has taken a key role at New York State’s largest private healthcare provider.

Ram Raju, former CEO of the NYC Health + Hospitals Corp., has been appointed senior vice president and community health-investment officer for the Northwell Health system. The senior VP will focus primarily on collaborations with outside community-based organizations, the health system said in a statement.

Based in Manhattan, HHC is a public network of 11 hospitals, trauma centers, neighborhood health centers, nursing homes and post-acute care centers. Also featuring a homecare agency and the MetroPlus Health Plan – one of the region’s largest government-sponsored health-insurance programs – the system boasts more than 70 offices across all five boroughs, a diverse 42,000-strong workforce and more than 1 million annual patients served.

His experience leading that large, community-oriented health system for nearly three years – Raju was HHC’s chief executive from January 2014 to November 2016 – prepared him well to serve as Northwell Health’s first-ever community health-investment officer, according to Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling.

“Ram’s vast experience, deep commitment to caring for vulnerable communities and keen understanding of New York’s healthcare delivery system make him the ideal individual to lead our efforts,” Dowling said Friday. “His most-recent work with NYC Health + Hospitals certainly enhances his ability to respond to this challenge.”

In his new role, Raju will evaluate the needs of the “most-vulnerable communities” served by the New Hyde Park-based health system and assess the system’s “ability to respond to those needs and collaborate with community-based organizations to create problem-solving solutions,” according to Northwell Health.

The health system, which is also New York’s largest private employer, created the position specifically for Raju, who said the new gig “enables me to pursue my passionate interest in improving population health and addressing the social determinants of health.”

“The many years I spent at NYC Health + Hospitals … gave me valuable insight into the needs of our most-vulnerable communities and how health policies can positively influence the delivery of care and improve outcomes,” Raju said in a statement.

His new job will let him “promote, sustain and advance an environment that supports equity and diversity, and help eliminate health disparities within the communities served by Northwell,” the senior VP added.

Raju’s earlier career at HHC included a stint as Coney Island Hospital’s chief operating officer and medical director. He also served as HHC’s chief medical officer, corporate COO and executive vice president.

Prior to taking the reins as New York Health + Hospitals’ CEO in 2014, Raju logged roughly three years as CEO of the Cook County Health & Hospitals System in Chicago, where he was credited with improving the 300,000-patient system’s cash flow by “more than $100 million,” according to Northwell Health.

Raju earned a medical diploma and Master of Surgery degree from Madras Medical College in India and continued his medical training in England, where he was named a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He later added an MBA from the University of Tennessee and a Certified Physician Executive degree from the American College of Healthcare Executives.

A former vice-chairman of the Greater New York Hospital Association, Raju currently holds board seats on numerous NYC, state and national healthcare organizations, including the New York Academy of Medicine and the American Hospital Association.  Modern Healthcare magazine has named him a top-25 Minority Executive in Healthcare and one of its 50 Most-Influential Physician Executives in Healthcare.