In a move he called “bittersweet,” Robert C. Garrett announced Tuesday night that he will step down as the CEO and president of Hackensack University Medical Center.
Garrett, who has led the hospital to national prominence while continually being named the best in the state, will continue in his role as CEO and president of the rapidly growing Hackensack University Health Network.
“It’s very emotional,” he said after the health system’s annual meeting, where he made the announcement. “Hackensack has been my family since 1981; it’s only been the last five or six years we’ve had the health network. (The hospital) is kind of like my baby, I’ve watched it grow and nurtured it.
“So it is bittersweet, but I’m so happy about where we are going.”
Hackensack University Medical Center Chairman Lawrence R. Inserra said a search for Garrett’s successor will begin in earnest, but that the process is still in its initial stages.
“We don’t really have a timeline yet,” he said. “But we’re going to actively start our search now. We’re looking at people internally and externally.”
Inserra praised Garrett for his leadership and guidance — and said Garrett’s efforts will give the hospital many options.
“The hospital is so good and so successful on its own,” he said. “We think we’ll be very attractive.”
Garrett, in speaking to an overflow crowd, said the growth of the health network made the decision necessary. Some said he needed to step down at the hospital in order to step up at the network.
“The network has grown and expanded to levels that require my full-time attention,” he told the group. “With progress comes change, so it’s time for me to focus on the network and start transitioning to be network-centric.”
Garrett’s role in picking his successor is unclear, but he made certain to tell the group that a change of leadership will not be a change in vision.
“I want to make a guarantee to all of you tonight: Whoever is chosen for that role will follow in my footsteps and my predecessors’, which made Hackensack UMC one of the leading hospitals in the entire nation.”
Garrett will have plenty to do when assuming the role of head of the network full time.
In the past year, Hackensack has announced plans to merge with Meridian Health (Garrett and John Lloyd will initially serve as co-CEOs), open the state’s first private medical school with Seton Hall, along with various other partnerships and affiliations; it announced deals with Summit Health and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center just this week.
So while Garrett eventually will no longer run the day-to-day operations of network’s flagship hospital, his influence will remain.
As he put it, he’s not going anywhere.
“You probably heard these rumors before: Bob is leaving,” he told the crowd. “Let’s be clear, let’s set the record straight: I’m so excited about my continuing role as president and CEO of the Hackensack University Health Network; I’m so excited about our family growing; I’m so excited about the direction we are going. We have a very bring future together.”
Garrett, who joined the hospital in 1981, was named chief operating officer in 1986. He assumed the role of CEO and president in 2009 after a nationwide search.
ALSO ON NJBIZ: