Robert J. Nesselbush was named CEO for Kaleida Health.
Nesselbush, currently the organization’s chief financial officer, came to Kaleida Health in April 2019 after spending 24 years at Rochester Regional Health (RRH). He will succeed Jody Lomeo, who announced earlier this year that he will not renew his contract at year’s end.
“As I said back in January when Jody made his announcement, this is all about building on the success that we have had as an organization over the past six years,” said Frank Curci, chair of the Kaleida Health board of directors. “Today’s announcement is true succession planning. The board felt very strongly about keeping the team together; they have performed so well under Jody’s leadership. In particular, Bob and the executive management team really shined during the COVID-19 crisis. With Bob elevating to the CEO position, you get a results-oriented leader who has a proven track record in operations, improving quality, growing market share and managing financial operations.”
At RRH, Nesselbush spent 24 years rising through the hospital system, beginning as the director of financial reporting and finishing as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the $2.4 billion system. As COO, he led the merger integration of four health systems in June 2014: Rochester General Health System, Unity Health System, Clifton Springs Health System and United Memorial Medical Center.
Rochester Regional has nearly 16,000 employees and consists of five acute hospitals (1,270 beds), including Rochester General Hospital, its 528-bed teaching hospital flagship. The system has 1,670 physicians in a range of affiliation models, including nearly 800 employed physicians and another 1,450-plus in Greater Rochester IPA (GRIPA), the clinically integrated physician-hospital organization. RRH also operates over 900 skilled nursing facility beds, a 900 member-plus capitated PACE program (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) and a lab enterprise that is international in reach.
Nesselbush said, “It is a truly incredible honor to be asked to lead and serve this great health system of ours. In my time in Rochester, I was fortunate enough to watch the growth and expansion that was underway at Kaleida Health. So, when I had the chance to join the organization in 2019, I jumped at the opportunity. As a proud Western New Yorker, I am very excited about building upon the many successes that Kaleida Health has achieved over the last seven years.”
A big believer in the importance of cross-functional teams, Nesselbush worked closely with nursing and physician leadership throughout his tenure in Rochester to help improve outcomes, quality scores and to reposition their hospitals in the region.
One of the direct results was the “RRH Quality and Safety Institute (QSI),” which is focused on driving continuous quality and patient safety improvement. The structure and investment in the quality program led to Rochester General Hospital’s recognition as one of HealthGrades America's 50 Best Hospitals (top 1% of hospitals in the nation).
Nesselbush’s achievements in his three decades in health care are many.
At RRH, he led the acquisition of over 80 physician practices accounting for over 200 providers; developed and invested in a physician and nursing informatics department focused on improving the electronic health record; and partnered with physician leadership in GRIPA to manage various payer risk contracts.
In addition to this, he also led the investment in an inpatient nurse certification and clinical ladder program to provide a vehicle for delivering enhanced compensation for premium nursing skills. He also supported RRH nursing in the pursuit and achievement of 10 Beacon Awards for Nursing Excellence.
“As with Jody when he came in as the CEO in 2014, I believe that it is important that the leadership of Kaleida Health fully appreciate and understand the importance of the University at Buffalo relationship and the health system,” said David Milling, M.D., senior associate dean for student and academic affairs for University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Milling is a former Kaleida Health board member who served on the CEO search committee. “From the medical school to clinical affiliations to the provision of care, alignment and partnership between the two entities is vital. Bob’s track record of operational success over the years with physicians, nurses and clinical staff bodes well for building upon the integration that we have seen here over the past few years between Kaleida Health and UB.”
“From a physician perspective, this is welcomed news," said George Matthews, M.D., a cardiologist with Great Lakes Cardiovascular. Mathews has been a Kaleida Health board member since 2012 and is the chair of the board’s quality and patient safety committee. “Bob has the experience from his time at Kaleida Health as well as throughout his career in Rochester working with physicians and nurses. He really understands the importance of investing in the quality program and how that drives successful hospitals and health care organizations. I am very pleased that he will help us build upon the success that we have had to date in all of our quality of care initiatives. He will assist Kaleida Health in staying true to our mission to advance the health of our community.”
In January, Lomeo announced that, after 12 years as CEO at Kaleida Health and ECMC, he would serve the remaining term, but will not renew or extend his contract. His one-year notice would allow the organization sufficient time to adequately plan for his replacement.
The Kaleida Health board of directors initiated a formal search process for a new CEO shortly after Lomeo’s announcement. The search was paused for a period of time due to COVID-19, but resumed in recent weeks. A number of internal and external candidates were considered.
Lomeo said, “I am thrilled with today’s announcement. Many organizations talk about succession planning; we are living it. This is best-in-class governance and board leadership, and that is good for Kaleida Health and our community. Since he came into the organization, Bob has made a major and tangible impact. His skill set is very unique and diverse, being able to align strategy, operations, quality and finance. I am really happy that we will be able to work together moving forward to ensure a smooth transition.”
Lomeo said the organization would begin a search for a new chief financial officer in the coming months.
In his time at Kaleida Health, Nesselbush has worked closely with operations and the executive management team to standardize strategic, financial and operating planning processes for the system. In addition to this, he spearheaded revenue cycle improvements, instituted a new payer governance structure, and implemented a new revenue recognition model.
Nesselbush said, “The opportunity to work with Jody and the executive team since my arrival last year, and now the ability to work side-by-side with them through this transition, affords me the ability to really hit the ground running. I want to thank Jody for all that he has done for the organization and community; I am humbled to follow in his footsteps. I also want to thank the board of directors for their confidence in the team and our strategy. We have a unique opportunity to emerge from these uncertain times as a stronger organization that will continue to focus on patients, team and executing our plan.”
Prior to serving as COO at RRH, he was the senior vice president of the health system’s acute care division and the president of Rochester General Hospital (RGH).
RGH is a 528-bed acute-care facility with a medical and dental staff of 1,500 that provides services including emergency, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, neurosciences and vascular surgery. The hospital is home to a number of centers of excellence including the Lipson Cancer Institute and the Sands-Constellation Heart Institute.
In his role there, he was responsible for hospital clinical services lines including cardiovascular, neurosciences, oncology, orthopedics, emergency medicine and pediatrics at RGH and Newark Wayne Community Hospital.
His financial leadership positions include serving as the senior vice president and chief financial officer of RGH. Prior to that, he was the vice president of finance and corporate controller.
Nesselbush and his wife, Marlene, are Western New York natives, having grown up in West Seneca.
He is a graduate of Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Arts and completed his Master of Business Administration with a focus on public accounting. Nesselbush began his career and spent five years as a senior accountant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Rochester.