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James R. Nathan
President and Chief Executive Officer

For more than 30 years, I have been honored to be a part of what has become one of Florida’s largest health care systems.

Through this journey, Lee Memorial Health System has emerged from a single hospital to an organization with four major acute care hospitals, a children's hospital, a rehabilitation hospital, a regional cancer center, a skilled nursing and rehab facility, home health services, multiple outpatient facilities and physician group practices.

Most importantly, LMHS is blessed with talented, caring people who want to do the right thing, whether it’s launching an initiative to provide even better patient care and safety or shoring up our financials to ensure the viability of our System. We are an organization of integrity, dedication and determination.

I first came to Lee Memorial in 1975, serving in various leadership positions until I was appointed President of Lee Memorial Hospital in late 1981. After 22 years, I left LMHS in 1997 to pursue a passion to see if I could play a role in national health care reform. During this period I had an opportunity to testify before the U.S. Senate, serve as a national keynote speaker and do work with the American Hospital Association, as well as a number of state hospital associations. I also worked as a consultant for other health care systems, resulting in a realization that it is the day-to-day workings of health care that are my true passion. I was welcomed back to LMHS in 2000, again as System president.

I don’t remember a time when health care and hard work were not a huge part of my life. My first job in health care was when I was in the second grade. My role was to tell children’s stories over a short-wave radio to tuberculosis patients housed in the “cure cottages” at Trudeau Sanatorium in Saranac Lake, NY. My father, Ray, had suffered from tuberculosis for as long as I knew him and was quarantined for two years. I “visited” with him by climbing a pine tree near his second floor window where we could wave to each other when he was well enough to sit or stand up. My mom, Mary, and I lived in a third floor attic, and she made crafts that could be sold by the hospital gift shop. I pretty much took care of myself due to my dad’s serious illnesses.

My father recovered enough to move to Cincinnati when I was in the third grade. My parents had lost everything paying for his health care; so we moved into a small apartment with my grandmother. Dad, with limited breathing capacity due to major surgeries removing parts of his lungs and rib cage, took a job with his brother-in-law selling used cars. A neighbor friend and I set up a haunted house in my grandmother’s garage called “Fun in the Dark” and gave kids tours in a little red wagon. We also showed silent films. We donated proceeds from those fundraisers to the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.

In the late 1950s, my dad and a cousin started a business leasing cars, although the concept did not even have a name at the time. Dad’s business grew, and by the time I was 13-years-old, I was helping him with a lot of the paperwork and even reviewing financials of failing businesses he was considering purchasing. In fact it wasn’t until I married my wonderful wife, Karen, 11 years later that I learned people did things besides work on the weekends!

Karen and I have been married for 40 years (and I am only 27!). Karen has a PhD in Education and completed a book about children who are highly gifted while challenged with dyslexia. She based the book, Dyslexia with Gifts and Talents, on the experiences of our oldest son, Zach, who has a brilliant mind but has struggled with his dyslexia. He is currently studying to become a clinical psychologist. Our younger son, Adam, works at the General Electric health care headquarters. He was involved in two patents for neurosurgical devices while at Washington University in St. Louis and has another patent pending. Both sons are married.

My dad died in 1981 at the age of 76. For all of the years I knew my dad, he suffered from multiple illnesses, but he always had time for others and found energy to leave a legacy for my mom and me, along with a tremendous work ethic. Watching my dad struggle with his health, and watching my parents struggle to pay for his care, helped inspire me to dedicate my life to health care. I can’t think of a better place to devote this energy than to LMHS and the community we serve in Southwest Florida.

It has taken a lot of hard work by a lot of talented people to create the LMHS of today. Some of the highlights of my time here include the development of HealthPark Florida, with planning that started in the mid-1980s, and the opening of HealthPark Medical Center in December 1991. I also take pride in how LMHS was able to turn around Cape Coral Hospital after its acquisition in 1996. At the time, CCH was providing excellent medical care but losing more than $1 million each month and had shrunk from 1,200 to 800 employees. It is now the largest employer in the city of Cape Coral with LMHS employing more than 1,500 individuals working in the city of Cape Coral.

In 2006, LMHS acquired Gulf Coast Hospital and Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center. With this acquisition came the opportunity to do something truly special in our community. We could significantly reduce the “medical arms race” that makes health care more expensive and focus on providing the best possible care for our patients. We merged the hospitals into one state-of-the-art facility, Gulf Coast Medical Center, which opened in March 2009.

These are only some of the exciting things that have happened during my time with LMHS. I clearly did none of this myself. Wonderful support and teamwork from the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, physicians and the community helped make it happen. I look forward to the future and the many great things that are to come for the residents of our region!

Fun Fact

When I was in my late teens, I taught horseback riding at a camp in Michigan. We never owned horses, but I discovered I was reasonably good at riding and even did some jumping. Dad would tell friends around Cincinnati that I liked to ride horses, but he never seemed to be able to line me up for a relaxing and enjoyable ride. I would get “invited” to ride horses that were problems or hadn’t been ridden in months. I clearly was not a horse “whisperer,” as I spent more time on the ground than on the horse! I finally asked my father not to tell anyone that I rode horses. It has been a while, but like riding a bike, I haven’t forgotten how.

Education

• Master of Business Administration, Xavier University

• Master of Health Care Administration, Xavier University

• Bachelor of Business Administration, Miami University

Memberships/Community Involvement
• Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives

• Board member of the Florida Hospital Association, Past Chairman

• Board member of the Safety-Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, Past Chairman

• Board Member of VHA-SE, Past Chairman
• Past President of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

• Board member of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools

• Founding board member of Lee County Pulling Together

• Past Chairman of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Lee County

• Past Chairman of the Community Hospitals and Health Systems

• Past Campaign Chairman and President of the United Way of Lee County


updated 10/01/2009

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James R. Nathan
President and Chief Executive Officer

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