Warner Thomas Leaving Ochsner; Pete November to Take Top Job
NEW ORLEANS – On Sept. 13, Ochsner Health’s board of directors announced that Warner Thomas, the health system’s current CEO, is leaving to take the top job at Sutter Health, a Sacramento, Ca.-based nonprofit that ranks as the nation’s 10th largest not-for-profit health system. Thomas’ career at Ochsner spanned 24 years. The board has unanimously voted to appoint Pete November, Ochsner Health’s current executive vice president and chief financial officer, as his successor beginning, appropriately enough, at the beginning of November.
“It’s bittersweet,” Thomas said while recording this week’s episode of the Biz New Orleans “Biz Talks” podcast with November. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Sutter Health Center is a great organization and has a long storied history dating back to the mid 1800s, but I’m also sad that I’m leaving. Ochsner is my family, my friends. We’ve gone through thick and thin together, and I really feel like we’ve made history together over the past 24 years.”
“Since joining Ochsner in 1998, and assuming the role of president and CEO in 2012, Warner has been instrumental in our growth and success. Under his leadership, Ochsner Health has expanded across Louisiana and the Gulf South and built a national reputation for quality and excellence,” said Andy Wisdom, chair of Ochsner’s board of directors, in a press release. “Warner’s legacy will live on at Ochsner for many years to come. On behalf of the entire board, we are grateful for his visionary leadership, and we wish him the very best in this next chapter.”
During Thomas’s tenure, Ochsner has grown to become the state’s biggest private employer (with roughly 36,000 employees) and the region’s largest healthcare system.
In the statement announcing his departure, the board credits him with helping Ochsner become a “regional healthcare destination and the top-ranked hospital in Louisiana for the past 11 years by U.S. News & World Report.” Ochsner said it has grown from 13,000 to approximately 36,000 employees, from 860 to more than 2,300 physicians and now provides care in 40 hospitals across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Thomas prioritized workforce development programs and assisted in the creation of academic partnerships with universities and technical colleges across the region to build a pipeline of healthcare professionals. He launched a $100 million initiative to raise Louisiana’s national health rankings.
“Leading Ochsner Health over the past 10 years will be one of the greatest accomplishments of my career,” Thomas said. “I leave Ochsner with a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction, but also a tremendous confidence in the future of the organization and the great accomplishments that are yet to come. With Pete at the helm and the exceptional leadership team in place, Ochsner Health will continue to navigate the challenges brought on by a changing healthcare landscape.”
Since joining Ochsner in 2012, November has held numerous senior leadership positions within the organization with responsibility ranging from operations and finance to partnership development and digital health. He led the development of Ochsner LSU Health System of North Louisiana. That involved hiring more than 300 physicians, expanding behavioral health services and investing more than $200 million.
“Pete is an exemplary leader who has a deep understanding of Ochsner Health, our patients and the communities we serve,” said Wisdom. “Over the last several years we’ve developed a clear leadership succession plan, and the Board’s unanimous vote is a strong signal of our confidence in Pete to build on Ochsner’s foundation of excellence to ensure we remain strong for many years to come.”
“This organization is an incredibly special place, and I am grateful to the Board for the opportunity to help shape its bright future,” said November, a Kentucky native who has lived in Louisiana for nearly 15 years. “It is a privilege to partner with our 36,000 employees and physicians to meet the needs and exceed the expectations of the communities we serve. As the leading health system in the Gulf South, I take seriously the responsibility we have to fulfill our mission, deliver innovative care and keep Ochsner strong for years to come.”