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Nebraska Medicine replaces CEO, picks new leader familiar in state’s medical circles

August 9, 2018

A figure familiar to many Nebraskans has been named chief executive officer of Nebraska Medicine, the health system and clinical partner of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. James Linder was appointed Monday in a unanimous vote of the Nebraska Medicine Board of Directors. He has served for years as a practicing pathologist within the health system and had served as interim president of the University of Nebraska system.

Linder replaces Dr. Daniel DeBehnke, who had held the post since 2016. DeBehnke previously served as CEO of a large physicians group in the Milwaukee area.

The move, announced Wednesday, is effective immediately.

Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chairman of Nebraska Medicine’s board, said the health system has been building momentum in recent years. It has won national awards for quality and safety of care and for clinical research and has opened or is poised to open several new clinics in the metro area. It has a solid strategic plan built by the board with the previous leadership team.

The board, he said, thought it was time for a change in order to accelerate that momentum.

Gold said Linder’s background and his existing relationships with people in communities across the state — physicians and hospital leaders as well as patients and families — will allow the health system to work more quickly and effectively toward those goals.

“It’s not a question of what’s broken but a question of the opportunity to accelerate that change,” he said.

The board, he said, is grateful to DeBehnke for his service and dedication to staff, students and community partners.

Gold stressed that Linder’s appointment is not an interim one. Linder previously has served as interim dean of the UNMC College of Medicine in addition to his interim term as NU president from 2014 through 2015.

Linder currently serves on the Board of Nebraska Medicine. Gold wrote in a letter that Linder has been instrumental in the continued successful governance of the hospital system as a board officer.

Linder said his background as a pathologist, which involves working in a service role with peer physicians, will be advantageous as he talks to partners — and potential partners — across the state.

The health system already is working with several Nebraska hospitals to help implement electronic medical records and has been able to extend some of those platforms to serve patients through its Community Connect program.

If a doctor refers a patient to Nebraska Medicine, Linder said, she can monitor the care the patient is receiving and have a complete record available when the patient returns.

The health system also has provided regional laboratory services to hospitals for about 20 years. If a hospital needs a test, one it doesn’t frequently perform, Nebraska Medicine can do it and keep the results in the state. That’s important for some diagnostics used in selecting cancer care, Linder said. Patients also could access advanced treatment protocols that might be available.

Linder and his wife, Karen, both are native Nebraskans. Linder earned his medical degree with distinction at UNMC and completed residency training at Duke University Medical Center and at UNMC.

Both he and his wife have been involved in technology innovation and investment. Linder is president of the University Technology Development Corp., a nonprofit public benefit corporation that oversees research and innovation projects like the Nebraska Innovation Campus and the National Strategic Research Institute.

However, Linder said he has functionally stepped down from that role, although he will remain available for consultation, based on his institutional knowledge of the organization’s activities. His role as chief strategist for the NU system also will end. He’ll remain a part-time faculty member in UNMC’s pathology department, with the title of professor.

”It’s a great organization. I’ve walked the halls and walked the campus for 30 years, and I always get a little choked up,” he said Wednesday, as he watched patients and families walk by inside the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. “We’re really privileged to have the honor of helping restore health to people.”

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