Gary Kaplan, MD, to End Career as CEO at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health


Soraya Marashi


After 22 years of transformative leadership, Gary Kaplan, MD, announced today he will end his time as CEO of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. Kaplan is internationally recognized for adapting management principles from the automotive and manufacturing industries for the health care setting to drive continuous improvement in quality, safety and patient experience. Through the development of the Virginia Mason Production System (VMPS) methodology, Kaplan led Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) to national and international prominence as a leader in care delivery, clinical performance and lowering costs through reduction of waste. For the last year, Kaplan has served alongside Ketul J. Patel as CEO for newly created health system Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH), where he was instrumental in expanding the impact of VMPS by embedding it as the new management system for Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

Effective January 1, 2022, Patel will assume the role of sole CEO of VMFH and will continue to position VMFH as an innovative national leader in quality, safety and patient satisfaction and advance the health system’s significant momentum for achieving growth and excellence.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve Virginia Mason and our Puget Sound communities, and I’m deeply proud of the strong progress we have made in our first year as the new VMFH health system, including the systemwide launch of the Virginia Mason Production System,” said Kaplan. “As we enter this new chapter, I’m confident that Ketul is the person best equipped to lead VMFH through the next years of growth and evolution.”

“Gary has made a legendary impact on health care not only in our region, but across the country,” said Patel, who also serves as the Pacific Northwest Division President for CommonSpirit Health. “We are deeply grateful for his leadership and his commitment to infusing the constant pursuit of quality and safety improvement into the fabric of who we are as VMFH.”

In 2022, for one year, Kaplan will serve as a special adviser to Patel and a Senior Vice President at CommonSpirit Health focused on quality, safety and patient experience. Transitioning from the CEO role will create space for time with family after decades of contribution to the health care industry and will allow Kaplan to promote quality, safety and patient experience across CommonSpirit Health. He will continue to stay involved with the Virginia Mason Institute and to lead trips to Japan to train health care leaders in the Toyota Production System methods.

“CommonSpirit Health will benefit from Gary’s extensive expertise, particularly in quality, safety and patient experience and reducing waste to improve costs of care,” said Marvin O’Quinn, President and Chief Operating Officer at CommonSpirit Health. “We’re proud of the progress underway at VMFH and look forward to the opportunity to continue to build on the success of Virginia Mason’s proven quality management framework. Together, we can continue to raise the bar for high-quality care across our 21-state national network of mission-driven health care providers.”

Kaplan and Patel have served as CEOs of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH) since the health system was formed through the combination of Virginia Mason Health System and CHI Franciscan Health in January 2021. The partnership created an expansive health care network including 11 hospitals, 200 clinics, 5,000 physicians and providers and 18,000 team members. Embracing the Virginia Mason Production System quality principles and continuous improvement framework throughout VMFH has been a key accomplishment of the system’s first nine months, and VMPS training is already underway across the organization with plans to fully train more than 600 leaders. Armed with VMPS principles, teams are already at work to improve clinical quality results, elevate the patient experience and reduce costs to deliver more affordable care to patients.

“Throughout our first year as Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, the system has benefited from the joint leadership of Ketul and Gary,” said Dr. Uli Chi, VMFH Board Chair. “Their collaboration at the helm of our system has facilitated a smooth transition and empowered us all to learn from one another, share best practices, define our new culture together and advance our shared goal of providing exceptional service to our patients and communities.”

Prior to the creation of VMFH, Kaplan served as CEO of Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) for 21 years. Under his leadership, VMMC was the inaugural recipient of the Leapfrog Hospital of the Decade Award in 2010, 10 years after the U.S. Institute of Medicine called for health care quality reform in its seminal report, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. The system has also received many awards including America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award from Healthgrades and the Top Hospitals in the United States from Leapfrog Group.

Kaplan’s influence on the health care industry has extended beyond VMMC and VMFH in his capacity as a national and international thought leader including chairing the board of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the National Patient Safety Foundation, the IHI Lucian Leape Institute and the Medical Group Management Association. He has also chaired the Greater Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce. In 2013, Kaplan was elected to the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. He has served in numerous leadership and governance roles regionally in the Pacific Northwest. He was the recipient of the John Eisenberg Patient Safety Award and was honored with the inaugural Steven Schroeder Award for Outstanding Healthcare CEO in 2018 in recognition of his courageous and ethical leadership in addressing health care affordability and quality. Kaplan has been recognized numerous times in the top 100 leaders in health care and 15 times as one of Modern Healthcare’s Most Influential Clinical Executives (most recently in 2020). Through the Virginia Mason Institute (VMI), the improvement model developed at Virginia Mason has successfully been shared with hundreds of health care organizations and leaders in the U.S. and internationally to foster innovation and excellence.