Chutes & Ladders—Alphabet snags former ONC chief; Cleveland Clinic hires chief research information officer

Graphic of workers with parachutes and ladders
(Lia Shaked)

Welcome to this week's Chutes & Ladders, our roundup of hirings, firings and retirings throughout the industry. Please submit the good news—or the bad—from your shop, and we will feature it here at the end of each week.


Vindell Washington
Vindell Washington

Vindell Washington, M.D., was hired as the new chief clinical officer for Alphabet, the parent company of Google and Verily Life Sciences. Washington served as the national coordinator for health IT from August 2016 to January 2017. 


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Prior to that, Washington was at the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for more than seven years, leaving as president of the medical group. 

After stepping down from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, he joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana in 2017 as chief medical officer.

Cleveland Clinic

Lara Jehi 
(Cleveland Clinic)

Lara Jehi, M.D., has been appointed the inaugural chief research information officer at Cleveland Clinic.

In this new position, Jehi will establish and oversee the research informatics environment to advance biomedical research throughout Cleveland Clinic, officials said. She will work closely with information technology, research, finance and other key departments to optimize the enterprise’s digital infrastructure to support research activities and accelerate new treatments for patients.

Jehi is an epilepsy specialist and has worked at Cleveland Clinic since 2006. She is currently spearheading multi-institutional National Institutes of Health-funded grants focused on data science.

She has led teams that developed the first nomograms for individualized outcome prediction after epilepsy surgery, work that was featured by Lancet Neurology in the Top 5 Innovations of 2015, officials said. 

State of Louisiana

Rebekah Gee 

Rebekah Gee, M.D., announced her plan to resign as Louisiana's Department of Health secretary.

Gee took a new job, which has not yet been announced, officials said in a statement. 

Gee oversaw the state's Medicaid expansion as well as its efforts to reform drug pricing through a Netflix-like model for paying for hepatitis C medications. 

Her departure is effective Jan. 31.


American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) President and CEO Douglas Fridsma, M.D., Ph.D., has left the organization after five years. AMIA announced Fridsma's departure Friday but noted that it was effective Jan. 1.

> Amar Desai, M.D., was named president and chief executive officer of Optum California. Desai, the former president of HealthCare Partners, will oversee all Optum care delivery organizations and physician networks in the state of California including HealthCare PartnersMonarch HealthCareNorth American Medical Management California and AppleCare.

> Aaron Crane was named executive vice president of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Crane will lead the organization’s strategic development, including SCCA’s long-range financial plan and the upcoming clinic expansion at SCCA’s South Lake Union campus.