UI Hospitals and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran to exit

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran is leaving Iowa for the top post at the University of California San Francisco Health.


Grace Smith

The CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Suresh Gunasekaran speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony at the North Liberty University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics construction site on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. The new facility is set to include procedure rooms, emergency care rooms, laboratories, outpatient clinics, a pharmacy, advanced diagnostic imaging and teaching/research space.

Anthony Neri, News Reporter

Suresh Gunasekaran, after serving as University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics CEO for three years, is departing to become the new president and CEO of Health at the University of California San Francisco.

He was selected after being recruited in 2021 during a national search conducted by UCSF.

Gunasekaran is expected to begin in California on March 1, leaving the UI for good at the end of February, UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson said.

UIHC is looking for a temporary interim CEO to fill Gunasekaran’s place and plans to install a permanent CEO after a national search. Details about the search will be revealed next week, Jackson told reporters Tuesday.

Jackson called UCSF Health “probably the best academic health system in the country.” The institution’s Medical Center has been consistently ranked highly, considered by U.S. News & World Report to be the best hospital for neurology and neurosurgery in the nation, according to the UCSF website.

Since he began as UIHC CEO in 2018, Gunasekaran has spearheaded a slate of initiatives, including overseeing the development of a new health facility in North Liberty in October 2021, leading UIHC’s response to COVID-19, expanding recruitment, increasing scholarships, and promoting safer and more inclusive workplaces, according to the UCSF website.

He also served as the UI Health Care Senior Associate Vice President and said he was formerly an IT consultant in San Francisco in the late 90s, when he learned he liked the city. Both Iowa and California, he said, “are really, really excellent,” but it was the combination of personal and professional aspects that made him accept the new job.

In addition to being the new CEO of UCSF Health, Gunasekaran will oversee “… two UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians, the UCSF Faculty Practice, …” and other groups affiliated with his network, according to the UCSF website.

Jackson said it was a pleasure to work with Gunasekaran and it’s not surprising he was selected to run such a prestigious medical center. “His performance here has really elevated us to a higher level in terms of our quality metrics, [and] in terms of our dealing with COVID.”

At a press conference Tuesday evening Gunasekaran said it was not an easy decision, considering the “standard of excellence” he already experiences at UIHC.

“Over the last several years it’s been an honor and a privilege to work at the University of Iowa, which is really a collaborative, special place, that’s really valued by the state and valued by this community,” Gunasekaran said. “I’m forever grateful for having had the opportunity to be a part of the University of Iowa.”

Gunasekaran called his co-worker Jackson “a remarkable leader and a remarkable visionary,” ensuring that Brooks has been as relevant as him throughout UIHC’s activities of which he himself has “been the face of.”

Gunasekaran described the future of UIHC at the press conference as one of collaboration with other in-state institutions. Jackson is equally committed to these expansive efforts, Gunasekaran said, hoping to increase capacity to see more patients, train more providers, and accelerate medical research in Iowa.

“I also think that over the next several years we have an eye towards partnering and working with other institutions around the state of Iowa to make sure that UI Health Care isn’t just a presence in Iowa City but is a partner to Iowans across the state, particularly rural Iowa,” he said.