Cleveland Clinic’s Toby Cosgrove to step down, search begins for new president and CEO

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove speaks with reporters earlier this year after he gave his annual State of the Clinic address. (Stephen Travarca/Cleveland Clinic)
One of the country’s most influential healthcare leaders plans to hang up his hat later this year.

Toby Cosgrove, M.D., who has served as president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic for nearly 13 years, announced this morning he intends to step down. He will continue serving as an adviser for the multispecialty academic hospital.

The organization will begin the search for his successor immediately. In keeping with its model as a physician-led institution, the new president and CEO will also be a practicing physician.

Cosgrove was a cardiac surgeon for nearly 30 years before becoming CEO of Cleveland Clinic in 2004. Since then, he has led initiatives that have gained international and national recognition, particularly his focus on improving the patient experience and reorganizing clinical services into a patient-centered care model.

Cosgrove coined the phrase “Patients First” at the institution and was the first to hire a chief patient experience officer, a position that is now a fixture in many hospitals across the country. He also has implemented same-day medical appointments for patients who request them.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of an extraordinary and forward-thinking organization that puts patients at the center of everything we do,” Cosgrove said in an announcement. “Cleveland Clinic’s world-class reputation of clinical excellence, innovation, medical education and research was created and will be maintained by the truly dedicated caregivers who work tirelessly to provide the best care to our patients.”

Under his direction, the Cleveland Clinic has grown into an $8 billion health system with locations in Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Canada and Abu Dhabi. It also will open a facility in London in 2020. The organization is Ohio’s largest employer with more than 50,000 caregivers.

Cleveland Clinic is also a leader in patient care. It was ranked No. 2 in the nation last year by U.S. News & World Report, which also ranked its heart program as No. 1 in America for 10 years in a row.

“The goal of any leader is to leave an institution better than you found it. Without a doubt, Toby has done that,” Cleveland Clinic Board of Directors Chairman Bob Rich said in the announcement. “Our world-class reputation has only grown over the past 13 years, as he has led Cleveland Clinic through a period of dramatic growth and worldwide expansion.”

In recent years, Fortune has also named Cleveland Clinic one of the best workplaces in healthcare. During his tenure, Cosgrove has led major wellness initiatives for both patients and employees, banning smoking on all campuses, adopting a policy not to hire smokers, offering employees free memberships to Weight Watchers and gyms, eliminating fried foods from the hospital cafeteria, opening weekly farmer’s markets in the summer and fall and creating an employee health insurance program that offers discounts for physical activity or for enrollment in a disease management program.

He was a frontrunner twice to serve as the secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs, most recently as President Trump’s pick to oversee the embattled agency. But he had to turn down the position because he couldn’t get out of his commitment to the Cleveland Clinic.