Oakwood Healthcare names CEO successor

After a distinguished 40-year career at Oakwood Healthcare, Inc., one of Michigan’s largest health-care systems, Gerald D. Fitzgerald will begin a transition that commences with Oakwood naming Brian M. Connolly, current president and CEO of Blue Water Health System in Port Huron, Mich., as Oakwood’s next CEO effective February 1, 2007.

The announcement was made November 2 by John D. Lewis, chairman of the Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. board of trustees. Oakwood Healthcare includes Oakwood Heritage Hospital in Taylor.

Connolly will join Oakwood as CEO on February 1, 2007, while Fitzgerald remains as Oakwood’s president until June 30, 2007. On July 1, 2007, Connolly will become president and CEO, and Fitzgerald will assume the title of vice chairman, which he will retain until June 30, 2008, when he retires from Oakwood.

From now until February 1, 2007, Fitzgerald continues as president and CEO at Oakwood. Subsequently, as president and then as vice chairman, he will remain focused on the further implementation of Oakwood’s strategic initiatives.

He also will continue to represent Oakwood as the chairman of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association board of trustees, and to serve on various boards with which Oakwood is affiliated. Connolly and Fitzgerald both will report directly to the Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. board of trustees.

The hiring of Connolly culminates an independent search that eventually ended with the hiring of a president and CEO from another health-care system in Michigan and someone who previously was an employee at Oakwood Hospital. The search process included input from board trustees, Oakwood leadership and Oakwood physicians. Connolly held a variety of administrative positions while at Oakwood Hospital from 1977 to 1984. 

“Brian Connolly is a highly respected CEO of a regional health-care system and we found him to be the most outstanding candidate to fill the shoes of someone who has been a pioneer in so many ways here at Oakwood, throughout the state of Michigan and on many national health-care issues,” said board Chairman Lewis.

Connolly said: “Jerry Fitzgerald and his team have developed Oakwood into one of the nation’s truly outstanding health-care systems. It is a great honor for me to follow him as Oakwood’s next CEO, and I really look forward to working with him during our time together at Oakwood.”

Fitzgerald said, “I have had the privilege of both working with and knowing Brian Connolly for nearly 30 years. He is a tremendously skilled administrator and leader, and Oakwood will be in very solid hands with him at the helm. I look forward to helping him in any way possible during my remaining time here at Oakwood.”

Connolly has been president and CEO at Blue Water Health System since February 2004. Previously, he was president and CEO at the Daughters of Charity Health System in Los Altos Hills, Calif., from August 2001 through February 2004.

Before that position, he spent two years as executive vice president of Catholic Healthcare Partners in Cincinnati, Ohio; and 14 years as president and CEO at Providence Hospital and Medical Centers in Southfield, Michigan.

Connolly earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Western Michigan University, and a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan. He lives in Port Huron with his wife Darcy.

Fitzgerald joined Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in 1966 as assistant director, and was appointed executive vice president in 1977. He was named president and CEO in 1980, and held that position through a merger with the Peoples Community Hospital Authority in 1989, which created Oakwood Healthcare System and doubled the size of Oakwood. Under Fitzgerald’s leadership, Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center has been named one of the top 100 cardiac hospitals in the nation for six of the past seven years.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Detroit, and a master’s degree in hospital administration from the University of Michigan. He is an American College of Healthcare Executives fellow, and serves as an adjunct instructor for the University of Michigan’s Program in Health Care Administration. He lives in Dearborn with his wife Janice.