Sarasota Memorial CEO to step down

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SARASOTA, Fla. – In a major shake-up in the Suncoast health care industry, the President and CEO of the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System says she is stepping down.

Gwen MacKenzie made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday morning.

“I'm sad about you leaving, but what you leave here is marvelous, and we thank you.” With tears in her eyes, Dr. Marguerite Malone tells MacKenzie that she will miss her. Malone, board chair of SMH, was elected ten years ago. She hired Gwen MacKenzie as CEO in 2005, and says she is a forward thinker. “We started working on outpatient centers and urgent care centers, when everybody else was still building huge hospitals, and that of course is the direction of medicine these days."

Suprisingly, there are the same amount of beds now as when she joined Sarasota Memorial in 2005. “We were in the business of building outpatient facilities, thinking about prevention, early detection, promoting health. So we have the same number of beds we always did."

She is most proud of a collaborative effort of the long overdue $250 million renovation. This includes the all new NICU unit, private patient rooms, orthopedic unit, two new cardiac units, the lobby and surgery center and a new energy center.

“Some would say why, at the healthiest time of Sarasota Memorial, did you turn to a strategic alliance with a bigger health system?” she says of the affiliation with the Baycare Heathcare System. “But I think it was really to prepare for the future and what we see as future challenges and uncertainties.”

MacKenzie’s leadership improved SMH's financial performance, which allows them to continue to provide, build, improve and expand -- even as a new rehab unit is in the works.

But there is a soft side to this strong woman. “She has brought a very personal touch to patients, families and staff. (She’s) very visible, and that's one of the key things I've noticed about Gwen,” says Malone.

MacKenzie is returning to her home state of Michigan at the end of the month, where she will take on a leadership position in the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health system, Ascension Health, overseeing more than 30,000 employees.