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Honoring legacies of leadership

Published: December 29, 2017
Russ Armistead, former CEO of UF Health Jacksonville View Larger Image
Penny Thompson, former vice president of Government Affairs View Larger Image
Bill Ryan, senior vice president and CFO of UF Health Jacksonville View Larger Image

As three of UF Health Jacksonville’s leaders retire, we reflect on their contributions to the organization.

UF Health Jacksonville’s exemplary patient care, employee engagement and community service are the result, in large part, of its leaders. At the end of 2017, three of our senior leaders — Russ Armistead, CEO; Penny Thompson, vice president of Government Affairs; and Bill Ryan, senior vice president and chief financial officer — will say goodbye to UF Health and enter retirement. Each has dedicated years of their careers to stewarding our organization toward greatness, and they have made contributions that will positively impact patients and staff for years to come.

Russ Armistead, CEO

On Aug. 16, 2004, Russ Armistead was recruited to UF Health in Gainesville as associate vice president of Finance and Planning. In December 2012, amid negotiations to take an administrative position at Augusta University, then known as Georgia Regents University, UF Health President David Guzick, MD, PhD, asked Armistead to become CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and use his financial expertise to lead the hospital into a more profitable future. Armistead began as CEO on Jan. 7, 2013.

During his tenure, Armistead led the charge to focus on improving UF Health Jacksonville’s quality scores. He encouraged a structured approach to quality improvement and hired Chief Quality Officer Kelly Gray-Eurom, MD, to oversee this process, resulting in improved outcomes for patients and increased quality scores for the hospital. The organization had a one-star Vizient clinical quality score when he began as CEO. Today, that ranking has risen to four stars.

His legacy includes improving the cultural harmony of hospital staff and physicians through hospitality training, promoting increased employee engagement numbers by addressing issues that matter to staff, and by making himself available through weekly rounds and his “A Few Minutes with Us” biweekly video series.

Armistead was instrumental in executing the organization’s efforts to expand into North Jacksonville, finalizing the construction and opening of UF Health North’s leading-edge hospital and outpatient medical office building. In doing so, he helped to diversify the sources of revenue and clinical referrals to the institution.

During Armistead’s time as CEO, UF Health Jacksonville received various awards and recognition, including multiple high rankings in U.S. News & World Report, competitive rankings in Vizient quality scoring, Vizient’s Inaugural Innovation Excellence Award, Joint Commission’s Top Performer on Key Quality Measures recognition, and the American College of Cardiology’s Platinum Performance Achievement Award. And, he was recognized as an “Ultimate CEO” by the Jacksonville Business Journal.

On Jan. 1, Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, will assume the role of CEO following Armistead’s retirement.

Penny Thompson, Vice President of Government Affairs

Penny Thompson began her career with UF Health Jacksonville on Jan. 20, 1987, as director of communications and marketing. In this role, she fostered important relationships within the media and the community to make UF Health Jacksonville a more well-known resource for patients in its service areas.

Thompson served the past 18 years as vice president of Government Affairs. Her accomplishments include playing a vital role in securing an additional $2 million in city funding for the hospital, which unlocked more than $18 million in federal funding. She also secured funding through the hospital’s Volunteer Services budget to start the Arts in Medicine program, which has transformed the experiences of countless patients in their time of need. Thompson was also key in establishing UF Health Jacksonville as one of two designated Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in the city of Jacksonville.

Bill Ryan, Senior Vice President and CFO

Bill Ryan joined UF Health Jacksonville as CFO in December 2001, believing he was fully prepared to manage the financial assets of a large academic hospital. But upon his arrival, he was met with an unfamiliar health system structure and limited funds.

Ryan admirably negotiated the internal relations, budgets and debt arrangements to successfully maintain UF Health Jacksonville as a fully functioning and valuable safety-net hospital for the Jacksonville community.

In September 2003, Ryan retired, but would return as CFO in July 2015. He successfully managed the challenges of meeting budget, continuing the support of the University of Florida College of Medicine, restructuring debt, funding the capital needs of the organization, renegotiating bank covenants to avoid defaults, keeping rating agencies stable in their assessments of UF Health Jacksonville and even taking on the CFO role of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. He also led the way in addressing the financing of UF Health North.

Ryan has served UF Health Jacksonville with diligence, integrity and distinction during his tenure. He was expected to retire on Dec. 31, along with Armistead and Thompson. However, his plans recently changed.

“Bill only thought we were going to allow him to retire in December. Instead, he’ll be staying on a little longer to assist in facilitating my transition into the role of CEO for UF Health Jacksonville. We’ll let him go eventually, just not quite as soon as he expected,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville.


For more information, please contact:
UF Health Media Relations
904-244-3268