Leaders in Health Care: Outstanding Health Care Executive

Penny Wheeler, M.D., Allina Health

By Caitlin Hill

Dr. Penny Wheeler, chief clinical officer of Allina Health, is committed to a mission of exceptional care for her patients. After receiving her medical degree and completing her residency at the University of Minnesota, Wheeler practiced medicine full-time for nearly 20 years at Abbott Northwestern-the same hospital where she was born.

Growing up with a father who was an engineer and mother who was an incredible community volunteer, Wheeler says it's his logical side and her idealistic one that have influenced her to take practical steps toward idealism.

Since 2006, Wheeler has led a significant quality improvement agenda for a health system that is rated nationally in the top 15 percent for integrated delivery systems quality. Wheeler is also leading the design and implementation of organization-wide clinical service lines. Through this initiative, every program has shown measurable improvements in care, service, efficiency and expanded service to underserved communities. But Wheeler insists that none of these accomplishments would be possible without the hard work of her team.

"Someone once told me the purpose of leaders is to build infrastructure. Having caregivers and patients better able to provide care and optimize health because of programs and infrastructure we have put in place is a great reward," she says.

Beyond her duties as chief clinical officer, she continues to see patients and is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Minnesota. But for Wheeler, being a physician is more than just a job; for her, it's a privilege.

"The mission of our healing profession fuels my passion," Wheeler says. "In this role, it's the special relationship with those I have been fortunate enough to serve that inspires me."

Outstanding Health Care Executive Finalists

Phillip Kibort, M.D., M.B.A., Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

Dr. Phillip Kibort serves as vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Kibort has devoted more than 30 years to children's health as a pediatric gastroenterologist and a senior health care executive, making a difference in the lives of his patients each day.

Throughout his career, Kibort has remained committed to his patients. He had final accountability for the creation of a web-based quality outcomes site where all of Children's outcomes, with national or state databases to measure against, are publicly available, providing patients with valuable information and motivating staff to continually improve.

Kibort shares his expertise and experience as a guest speaker across the country and actively mentors upcoming physician leaders. He also teaches medical quality at the University of St. Thomas and organizes an annual leadership course for health care professionals at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Business.

John Romans, M.B.A., BioMedix

John Romans has been president and CEO of BioMedix, a Minnesota-based medical technology start-up company focused on the detection of vascular disease, since 1997. Overseeing the operations and the strategic direction of the company, Romans continues to foster industry and provider collaboration, spread awareness of vascular disease and spark innovations in the medical technology field.

Throughout his career, he has been a founding principal in several technology-based ventures and is an experienced entrepreneur with a track record of developing and implementing innovative business models. In July 2012, Romans was awarded a U.S. Patent for the Collaborative Care Business Method-a methodology that supports cost-effective coordination and exchange between physicians who detect and manage vascular disease. Since then, the PADnet has surpassed over one half million completed vascular disease tests.

[View the full list of the 2012 Leaders in Health Care winners and finalists here]