DANVILLE — Dr. Jaewon Ryu, Geisinger's new president and chief executive officer, wants to make health care as easy as possible for patients.
"It's tough to be a patient anywhere," Ryu said Thursday after the Geisinger board announced his appointment, effective July 1.
Ryu will become the seventh CEO in Geisinger's 104-year history. He has been the interim president and CEO since November 2018 after David Feinberg left for Google's health care initiative. Ryu has been executive vice president and chief medical officer at Geisinger since September 2016.
"Geisinger has a lot of great programs. We will figure out how to build and take a closer look at making patient care a lot easier," Ryu said.
Ryu, 45, of Lewisburg, said he was thrilled with the appointment. He first learned about Geisinger's emergency care models 12 years ago while working in government in Washington, D.C.
"This is a dream come true for me," he said of leading Geisinger with 32,000 employees and more than 1,800 employed physicians. Geisinger serves more than 1.5 million patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey through 13 hospital campuses, a nearly 600,000-member health plan, two research centers and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. "We're really excited about what is to come."
Ryu's salary was not released Thursday. A hospital spokesman said the "compensation committee of our board of directors works hard to ensure that our wages and benefits throughout the organization are based on our desire to be market competitive and reflect each position’s level of responsibility and accomplishment.
Geisinger Board Chairman John Bravman said the health system was fortunate that Ryu was on staff and serving as interim CEO. "He wanted a vigorous search process and he rose to the top in a very competitive process," Bravman said.
Ryu was hired by Feinberg, someone Ryu has known since 2012. Ryu said keeps in touch with Feinberg, calling him a friend and mentor.
Bravman said the position of Geisinger CEO and president was a sought-after post. A dozen candidates were chosen for oral interviews and a small number of finalists. He said Ryu was in an awkward position in his interim role and also being interviewed as a candidate. He said Ryu "handled it magnificently."
With people in the area underestimating the role of Geisinger in the national health care scene, Bravman said when the vacancy occurred, there was enormous interest and he was very pleased with the depth of the pool. Finalists were interviewed during a rigorous process by at least 50 people in face-to-face interviews, he said.
Before coming to Geisinger, Ryu served as president of integrated care delivery for Humana in Louisville, Kentucky. Prior to that, he served as chief medical officer at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in Chicago. He has held leadership roles at Kaiser-Permanente, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and as a White House fellow at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Earlier this week, Ryu earned a top 20 spot on Modern Healthcare's The 50 Most Influential Clinical Executives list for 2019.
He highlighted several initiatives designed to make access to care easier, including a primary care redesign to expand appointment times for patients 65 and older from 20 to 40 minutes. Ryu also talked of Geisinger's At Home and 65 Forward programs. With Geisinger At Home, doctors make house calls to patients with complex chronic diseases in order to keep them healthier and results in them using the emergency room and hospital less. By supplying food, coaching and recipes, Geisinger has been able to keep diabetic patients out of the hospital 40 percent less, he said.
The 65 Forward program, launching next month, will provide VIP-level care to seniors in Northeast Pennsylvania and in Scranton in October, he said. With physicians across the country seeing upward of 3,000 patients, he said the number will be capped at 450 for physicians. Patients won't compete with thousands of other patients for time and attention by Geisinger's care team. Ryu said. The program is geared toward seniors who tend to carry the chronic disease burden, he said.
With Geisinger expanding relationships with other providers, such as Evangelical Hospital, Ryu said Geisinger has many key partners with him expecting growth through those partnerships. He said the relationship with Evangelical is "still on the early side with fleshing out what the details will look like."
"I am very excited about Dr. Ryu's selection," said Evangelical Community Hospital President and CEO Kendra Aucker. "He was at the table during the discussions about our partnership with Geisinger. He has been deeply committed to the relationship between the two hospitals."
Ryu said Geisinger remains committed to the MyCode Community Health Initiative — one of the largest health care system-based precision health projects in the world. It has more than 245,000 volunteer participants and more than 145,000 sequenced for extensive research and potentially life-saving results to participants.
Ryu said he and his wife have two daughters, ages 9 and 11, with his in-laws living with them. He said they are busy with their daughters' swim meets, soccer games and piano lessons and are lucky to have help from the in-laws.