Covenant Health, the major health system headquartered in Knoxville and the region’s largest employer, has announced plans for a leadership transition. Effective April 1, 2016, Anthony L. (Tony) Spezia, Covenant’s long-time president and chief executive officer, will become CEO emeritus and Jim VanderSteeg, executive vice-president of operations, will assume the role of president and CEO of the health system.
“This announcement is a culmination of several years of succession planning by Covenant’s board and our CEO,” said Larry Mauldin, chairman of Covenant Health’s board of directors. “Tony Spezia has been Covenant’s CEO for over 15 years and has led a remarkable business turnaround which has made Covenant Health one of the leading health systems in the country.
“The Covenant board wants to assure that the organization continues the successful strategies and commitment to quality that has led to the health system’s success,” he said. “Jim VanderSteeg has worked closely with Tony for the past eight years and has demonstrated that he is well qualified to lead Covenant Health.”
Spezia joined Covenant Health in 1996 after holding leadership positions in several industries. He was named president and CEO in 2000. In addition to his role at Covenant, he has been involved extensively in healthcare policy development and has served in a number of state and national leadership roles, including serving as chairman of the American Hospital Association’s Health Systems Governing Council.
During Spezia’s tenure as CEO, Covenant Health has expanded significantly in Tennessee, acquiring hospitals from Crossville to Morristown. The health system has invested more than $1.2 billion in facilities and technology, including building new community hospitals in Loudon, Roane and Sevier counties, while growing its cash and investments by over $700 million. Covenant also has received ongoing national recognition for its quality, service and compliance programs.
“Tony’s leadership has significantly influenced the success of Covenant Health. Even more importantly, he has a passion for excellence in serving patients, and an unwavering dedication to Covenant’s mission of improving the quality of life in our communities through better health,” Mauldin said. “We are most gratified that Tony has agreed to stay with the organization in the role of CEO emeritus, assisting Jim and the leadership team and representing the organization in areas of public policy.”
“I look forward to continuing to serve Covenant Health and its leadership team in strategic development, public policy and other corporate initiatives,” Spezia said. “Throughout my years as Covenant Health’s president, I‘ve been privileged to be part of a great organization with a highly qualified leadership team. Jim VanderSteeg has contributed significantly to our success, and I wholeheartedly support the board’s decision to select him as Covenant’s next CEO. I believe that Jim, along with John Geppi, executive vice president and CFO, and the other members of Covenant’s leadership team will continue the organization’s growth, performance, and commitment to quality.”
Jim VanderSteeg joined Covenant Health in 2007 after nearly 20 years in administrative and executive leadership roles at Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp., a healthcare delivery system with 13 hospitals in Tennessee and Mississippi. From 2004-06 he served as administrator and CEO of Baptist Memorial Hospital Memphis, the company’s flagship hospital.
“The opportunity to join Covenant Health eight years ago appealed to me because of the health system’s not-for-profit mission of serving the community, its pursuit of the highest standards of quality, the strength of Covenant’s leaders and the dedication of its employees and physicians,” VanderSteeg said. “I’m honored to have worked alongside Tony Spezia as part of Covenant’s executive leadership team. He has been an inspiring chief executive and a mentor who has expanded my responsibilities and opportunities for professional growth. I’m looking forward to working with our board of directors and all of the employees, physicians and volunteers at Covenant Health to continue our commitment to excellence.”