Chutes & Ladders—Centene unveils its next CEO; Cityblock Health names co-founder as permanent CEO

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.

Centene Corporation

Sarah London, CEO of Centene

Sarah London has gotten the nod for the CEO role at Centene Corporation following news that retiring CEO Michael Neidorff would be stepping away early due to a medical leave of absence.

The Harvard College and University of Chicago Booth graduate has been with the company since 2020, serving as its senior vice president of technology innovation and modernization.

More recently, she served as Centene’s vice chairman of the board, responsible for managing a portfolio of non-health plan companies, designing differentiated platform capabilities and delivering products and services to customers, according to the announcement.

Prior to joining up, London served as a venture capital partner at UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Ventures, chief product officer for Optum Analytics and the vice president of client services and operations at Optum-acquired healthcare data and analytics firm Humedica. She also held roles at Accretive Health and Health Leads.

London’s appointment is effective immediately. Neidorff remains on leave from his remaining position on Centene’s board.

Cityblock Health

Toyin Ajayi, Cityblock Health
(Toyin Ajayi, Cityblock Health)

Toyin Ajayi, M.D., has added the title of CEO to her roles as president and co-founder of Cityblock Health, the disparity-focused healthcare company.

Iyah Romm, Cityblock’s other co-founder and prior CEO, had announced in November a leave of absence to focus on his mental health and handed former federal policymaker Andy Slavitt the reins temporarily. Romm will remain a member of Cityblock’s board.

Ajayi is a practicing family medicine doctor who had served as chief medical officer of integrated health plan and care delivery system Commonwealth Care Alliance prior to launching Cityblock out of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs in 2017.

The upgraded role will see Ajayi homing in on scaling her company as it aims to provide healthcare and social services to Medicaid, dually-eligible and lower-income Medicare beneficiaries in new markets.

Allina Health | Aetna

Bob Wieland, M.D.
(Allina Health | Aetna)

Robert Wieland, M.D., has been promoted from his role as chief medical officer to CEO of Allina Health | Aetna, effective immediately.

He’s been a part of the provider and payer’s joint venture health plan since its 2017 launch and before that was chief strategy officer at Allina Health itself. His time with the system also placed him in charge of its integrated medical network as well as its clinics and community division.

Wieland will remain in charge of the plan’s care and medical management strategy as well as the formulation of its standards of care. Moving forward, he will also be overseeing the plan’s executive leadership, setting strategic direction for its Medicare and commercial segments and guide its continued growth, according to the announcement.

Wieland is now reporting to the Allina Health | Aetna board of directors. Tom Lindquist had previously filled the CEO role.


profile photo of Miruna Sasu

Miruna Sasu has been tapped as the new CEO and president of COTA, a provider of oncology real-world data abstraction, curation and analytics for healthcare providers and life sciences companies.

The pharma industry vet joined COTA last year as its chief strategy officer following a two-year stint at Johnson & Johnson as head of clinical trial feasibility and data science.

Prior to that, Sasu was with Bristol Myers Squibb for five years as a manager, associate director and finally head of innovation and digital health. She also served as a branch chief at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Sasu takes on the new role with growth in mind, particularly around the company’s efforts to build up strategic partnerships with providers and clinical research groups targeting cancer breakthroughs. She also said she is interested in expanding the company’s work to promote clinical trial diversity using its real-world data.

> Tenet Healthcare unveiled Will McDowell, currently Cigna’s vice president of strategy and corporate development, as the health system’s new vice president of investor relations, effective March 31.

> CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield appointed Djinge Lindsay, M.D., as director of public health, a newly created role.

> Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health announced Teresa Dean Malcolm, M.D., as vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, effective April 4.

> AppliedVR, a virtual reality therapeutics company, named Charisse Sparks, M.D., as chief medical officer.

> HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital announced Caroline Burris as chief operating officer, effective March 21.

> LewisGale Medical Center, a Virginia hospital under HCA Healthcare, brought on Willie Payton Jr. as chief operating officer.

> Trident Health announced Jane Appleby, M.D., as chief medical officer.

> HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Illinois will see Chris Klay take on the president and CEO roles May 1.

> Bon Secours Mercy Health’s Mercy Health-Cincinnati CEO Dave Fikse announced plans to retire in June.

> Verato, a healthcare identity verification company, named Paige Lisk as chief people officer.

> McKinley Christian Health Care Services in New Mexico will see Robert Whitaker step in on April 15 as its first permanent CEO since 2020.

> Parkview Wabash Hospital in Indiana tapped Debra Potempa as president effective April 18.

> Bothwell Regional Health Center in Mississippi named Michele Laas as chief nursing officer.