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3 Milwaukee leaders leaving top executive roles at Advocate Health system

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The last remaining executives who were part of the legacy health system Aurora Health Care are on their way out or have recently left top leadership roles at Advocate Health, the health system formed after the large, multi-state merger between Advocate Aurora Health and North Carolina-based Atrium Health.

Cristy Garcia-Thomas, a well-known member of Milwaukee’s business community, plans to leave Advocate Health, where she was chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, at the end of August, according to a memo provided by spokesperson Adam Mesirow.

Also leaving is Mary Beth Kingston, Advocate Health’s chief nursing officer, who plans to retire in December, according to Mesirow.

Finally, Rick Klein retired at the end of May, along with the former co-CEO of Advocate Health, Jim Skogsbergh, according to Mesirow. Klein most recently was an executive vice president and chief of staff to Skogsbergh, and had worked for Aurora Health Care and its successor organizations for nearly four decades.

The three were the last high-level executives at Advocate Health who had been leaders of Wisconsin-based Aurora Health Care before it merged in 2018 with Illinois-based Advocate Health Care Network to form Advocate Aurora Health. That health system then merged in late 2022 with North-Carolina-based Atrium Health to become Advocate Health, now one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the country. It’s based in North Carolina and has a presence in Wisconsin, Illinois and four Southern states.

In an interview Tuesday, Garcia-Thomas said she doesn’t have plans yet for the next step in her career. Until then, she plans to spend time with her family.

Garcia-Thomas has been involved in the process of screening her successor for chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, who will be announced soon, she said.

She joined the Aurora Health Care board of directors in 2000 before taking on an executive role at the organization in 2011, according to the memo announcing her departure. She is active in the local community and serves on several boards of directors, including those of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Hispanic Collaborative and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. She led the United Performing Arts Fund from 2007 to 2011.

During her time with Advocate Health, she helped with the transition from separate organizations to one merged organization.

Aurora Health Care, the brand name used for Advocate Health’s operations in Wisconsin, is “in great hands,” she said, under its newest president, Gabrielle Finley-Hazle, who lives in the Milwaukee area.

“It was a pivotal time for me to think about well, what do I want to do next?” Garcia-Thomas said. “My personal life is different now. I’m an empty nester. It was just the right time for me to step away knowing that I’ve been able to accomplish the things that the company needed me to do for them.”

Garcia-Thomas also has been involved in efforts to narrow health disparities and to address social drivers of health, such as housing, employment and food security.

“We use data and the community voice to help develop the solutions that we’re coming up with, and testing those and then integrating the ones that are successful throughout our footprint,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee leaders leaving top executive roles at Advocate Health

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