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Executive leadership team named for Advocate Aurora

Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI — As the close of the Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care merger draws near pending one final regulatory review, today a single Advocate Aurora Health executive leadership team was announced. Advocate Aurora Health, which will be the 10th largest not-for-profit, integrated health care system in the United States, will serve nearly three million patients each year.

“The Advocate Aurora Health executive leadership team has the proven track record and experience to boldly lead our new organization into the future as we transform the health care industry,” said Nick Turkal, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Aurora who will be the CEO of Advocate Aurora Health.

“This strong and visionary leadership team positions us to enhance our work on safety, outcomes, cost and consumer experience to deliver on our promise of reimagining the possibilities of health for those we serve,” said Jim Skogsbergh, president and chief executive officer of Advocate also named CEO of Advocate Aurora Health.

Both the Advocate and Aurora Boards of Directors approved the plan to merge in December. The merger has cleared regulatory review from the Federal Trade Commission and state of Illinois. The final approval is expected in the coming weeks from the Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner.

The new organization will operate 27 hospitals, more than 500 sites of care, employ more than 3,300 physicians and nearly 70,000 employees. With combined annual revenues of approximately $11 billion, Advocate Aurora Health offers significant resources and the financial flexibility to expand investment and scale innovation.

The leadership team will report directly into the office of the CEO effective upon close. The Advocate Aurora Health executive leadership team is as follows:

Rick Klein, Chief Business Development Officer

Rick’s accountabilities will include business development, managed care contracting, growth and affiliations. He has been with Aurora since 1986 and has served in a variety of leadership roles in the areas of business development, strategy and payor relations. Previously, he was the assistant vice president of marketing for the former Firstar Corp. Rick holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Cristy Garcia-Thomas, Chief External Affairs Officer

Cristy’s accountabilities will include the foundation, diversity and inclusion, government and community relations and community health. She joined Aurora in 2011 and has more than 20 years of leadership experience in philanthropy, publishing and community affairs. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and completed executive-level programs at Northwestern University and Harvard Business School.

Dominic Nakis, Chief Financial Officer

Dominic’s accountabilities will include all financial operations, investments, internal audit, enterprise risk management and Board Treasurer. He has been a leader within Advocate for more than 30 years after beginning his career in the health care practice at Ernst & Young. With more than 40 years of experience in the finance industry, he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MBA from DePaul University in Chicago.

Kevin Brady, Chief Human Resources Officer

Kevin’s accountabilities will include employee relations, compensation and benefits, talent management and acquisition and leadership development. He has served in key leadership roles at Advocate for more than 26 years. With over 30 years of experience in the human resources industry, he earned his PhD and master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from DePaul University in Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Bobbie Byrne, MD, Chief Information Officer

Bobbie’s accountabilities will include clinical and business applications, computing services, the data center, information security and technical services. She has been with Advocate for nearly one year. She has more than 15 years of experience in clinical informatics along with a decade of experience in professional practice. She received a bachelor’s degree in history and a medical doctorate from Northwestern University. She also has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Mike Lappin, Chief Integration Officer

Mike’s accountabilities will include Advocate Aurora integration, compliance and privacy and Board Secretary. He joined Aurora in 2009 leading the organization’s non-clinical administrative functions. With more than 25 years of experience, he practiced law for 16 years at Quarles & Brady LLC. Mike received his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a law degree and master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Michael Grebe, Chief Legal Officer

Michael’s accountabilities will include legal services. He joined Aurora in 2017 and has extensive experience in navigating the complex health care environment having served as executive vice president and general counsel at HUSCO International, Inc. and as a partner at Milwaukee’s Quarles & Brady LLP law firm. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kelly Jo Golson, Chief Marketing Officer

Kelly Jo’s accountabilities will include consumerism, brand, advertising, digital marketing and experience, public affairs and internal communications. She joined Advocate in 2007 and has 25 years of experience in the health care industry serving in key leadership roles at Memorial Hermann Healthcare, Methodist Healthcare and St. Luke’s Episcopal Healthcare. She has an undergraduate degree in journalism from Texas A&M University and an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University.

Lee Sacks, MD, Chief Medical Officer

Lee’s accountabilities will include safety, health outcomes, medical staff services, research, clinical integration and APP-CIN leadership. He has been with Advocate for 40 years, spending 27 years in clinical leadership roles. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and a medical degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Mary Beth Kingston, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer

Mary Beth’s accountabilities will include nursing business operations, ambulatory nursing, staffing services, practice innovation and the Center for Nursing Research. She has been with Aurora for six years and has more than 35 years of experience in a variety of other nursing and administrative roles, including serving as the system CNO for Einstein Health Care for eight years. She earned a bachelor’s degree at West Chester University, a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing her PhD.

Bill Santulli, Chief Operating Officer

Bill’s accountabilities will include all hospital, post-acute, home health and ancillary operations. He has been a leader within Advocate for nearly 20 years. He has over 35 years of health care experience having served in key leadership positions with Iowa Health System, Unihealth America and Good Samaritan Hospital. He has a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree in sociology/health services research from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Notre Dame.

Rev. Kathie Bender Schwich, Chief Spiritual Officer

Kathie’s accountabilities will include chaplaincy, pastoral care, church affiliations and ethics. She has been with Advocate for nearly a decade and has more than 30 years of experience in spiritual care and executive leadership. As an ordained minister, she has degrees from the University of Michigan and Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary.

Scott Powder, Chief Strategy Officer

Scott’s accountabilities will include strategy and innovation. He has served as a strategic thought leader at Advocate Health Care for 24 years. Prior, he served as head of international sales and strategy for a medical device manufacturer. He has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in International Relations from Michigan State University.

Vincent Bufalino, MD, Chief Advocate Medical Group Officer

Vincent’s accountabilities will include medical group operations, physician recruitment, service lines and clinical access. He has been with Advocate for six years and has more than 30 years of experience as a practicing cardiologist and health care administrator. A graduate of Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine, he completed his internship and residency at the Foster G. McGaw Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.

Jeff Bahr, MD, FACP, Chief Aurora Medical Group Officer

Jeff’s accountabilities will include medical group operations, physician recruitment, service lines and clinical access. He joined Aurora in 2002. As a practicing internist, he has 17 years of clinical and administrative leadership experience. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin where he also completed his internship and residency. He received his bachelor’s degree from Marquette University.


About Advocate Health Care

Advocate Health Care is the largest health system in Illinois and one of the largest health care providers in the Midwest. Advocate operates nearly 400 sites of care and 12 hospitals, including two of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals, the state’s largest integrated children’s network, five Level I trauma centers (the state’s highest designation in trauma care), three Level II trauma centers, one of the area’s largest home health and hospice companies and one of the region’s largest medical groups. Advocate Health Care trains more primary care physicians and residents at its four teaching hospitals than any other health system in the state. As a not-for-profit, mission-based health system affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, Advocate contributed $692 million in charitable care and services to communities across Chicagoland and Central Illinois in 2016.

About Aurora Health Care 

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin-area health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve health care quality. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 30 counties throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Aurora is Wisconsin’s most comprehensive health care provider and the state’s largest private employer. Aurora serves more than 1.2 million patients every year via a comprehensive network of facilities, services and providers, including 15 hospitals, more than 150 clinics, more than 70 pharmacies and more than 33,000 caregivers. As evidenced by more than 300 active clinical trials, Aurora is dedicated to delivering innovations to provide the best possible care today, and to define the best care for tomorrow. Get helpful health and wellness information via the Aurora MyHealth blog, our Facebook page, our Twitter account and our Pinterest account.

Media Contacts

Advocate Health Care
Lisa Lesniak
(630) 929-6602

Aurora Health Care
Tami Kou
(414) 299-1860