At 44, Steve Leonard is impressively young to be chosen as Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s new CEO, but he’s confident in his experience and has a solid vision for the hospital’s future.
The vice president of Operations Optimization and Innovation for the hospital, Leonard was named last week to succeed President and CEO Dr. Peggy Naleppa, who will retire in January 2018.
His age, the Snow Hill resident said, is beneficial from an investment perspective because it allows “a certain degree of time to hopefully take this organization to a place, over time, that will be great.”
“I’m in that Y Generation as well, which, when you look at the workforce and engaging the team out there, I think I have great relationships with folks no matter how long they’ve been here, which has been positive for me,” he said this week.
Hospital employees have reacted to his elevation in an “extremely positive” way, Leonard said.
Those who know him understand his background is in performance improvement.
“All ideas are great ideas. It’s the reflection of a larger group that really guides the process. My goal is to facilitate a team. All feedback is welcome in terms of where we need to be going,” he said.
Leonard will help chart the direction of the ninth-largest hospital in Maryland under the watchful eye of the Board of Directors, whose members, he said, “hold us accountable to achieve the mission.”
“It’s a turbulent time in health care. The board has looked at what we’ve done and, as with any selection process, there are always those factors to consider when they choose who might be in a role like this.
“The choice of an internal candidate versus an external candidate does give some confidence that we are heading in the right direction,” he said.
“I am honored by that and humbled.”
During the transition, Leonard will work closely with Naleppa, who was named CEO in 2008 and, prior to that, served five years as chief operating officer.
A PRMC employee since 2003, he was both the director and executive director of Operational Performance Improvement.
A graduate of Florida Atlantic University, he has a bachelor’s degree in Management and Finance and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Salisbury University. He is now pursuing a doctorate degree in organizational leadership at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
“My role in health care has evolved over time. When I wind the clock back here at the hospital, I started out in performance improvement, so my background tended to have me interact with folks throughout the building, really just being supportive and trying to figure out ways to help the team, get them what they needed to be better,” Leonard said.
“I started out in health care as a paramedic, I always had the desire to be in a role to help people. In that role, they called when they really needed the help.
“My role evolved over time and eventually got more into hospital operations and administration. I don’t claim to be a nurse. I don’t claim to be a doctor, but I have the utmost respect for the team.
“I think that gives me perspective more than anything else and appreciation while having perhaps some of the background related to finance management operations to support the team well,” he said.
Leonard oversaw the Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute, surgical services, pharmacy, medical imaging, laboratory, supply chain and support services, food and nutrition, information services, organizational development and performance improvement and business intelligence and clinical analytics departments.
One of his main focuses in the past several years has been the new Delmarva Health Pavilion, which opened at the North Gate in Ocean Pines in 2015 and the adjoining cancer center.
“It is lower cost, closer to home,” Leonard said about the concept of putting a facility in a heavily populated area of Worcester County, so residents don’t have to drive to Salisbury.
“It’s the evolution of the environment whether you’re in the state of Maryland or anywhere in the country.
“We’re going to continue to look at where we need to be in the region, and finish planning Ocean Pines and that campus. Then, the next step will be determined from where we go from an engagement perspective with the community,” he said.
Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, not far from the new center in Ocean Pines, is planning its own cancer center.
Leonard said PRMC and AGH officials have met in the quest for “constructive relationships about how to engage the community.”
“We did engage them the last five years about how we can support folks better in the community,” he said.
PRMC officials offered to put the hospital’s cancer center on AGH property, “but we couldn’t agree to what that model looks like,” Leonard said.
PRMC, he said, still has a desire to work with AGH on cancer services at its pavilion that will open this summer in Ocean Pines.
Leonard, who lives with his wife, Kim, and their three children, said he feels fortunate to have supported “the efforts at PRMC over the last 15 years.”
“During this time, I know that I have been positively influenced by countless members of a team that is dedicated to exceeding expectations and providing exceptional care.
“I am honored, humbled and excited to have an opportunity to lead this great team at PRMC at what is nothing short of a revolutionary time in our industry,” he said.
Peninsula Regional Board Chairman Monty Sahler described Leonard as highly qualified for the top leadership post.
“Steve is exceptionally credentialed and rose to the top of an equally exceptional field of over 200 candidates who applied for the position,” said Sayler.
“The Board and Dr. Naleppa have complete confidence that he will do a wonderful job leading this health care team and we are committed to supporting Steve during this transitional phase,” Sayler said.
Leonard said he’s looking forward to assuming what has been called the hardest job on the Eastern Shore.
“You know, we might want to save that (discussion) for a follow-up,” he said, laughing.
“I’m sure it’s extremely difficult. I’m sure it’s hard. I’m careful not to judge other roles because there are folks on the Shore, there’s folks in all kinds of roles, that have a difficult time,” he said.
“But we have a great transition process and I think we’re extremely fortunate around that.”
Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at email@example.com