Chad Lefteris, CEO of UCI Health
Chad Lefteris, CEO of UCI Health. Steve Zylius/UC Irvine

In a quest to better serve the health and wellness needs of the region, Lefteris is exporting patient-centered, team-based, integrative care beyond UCI Medical Center in Orange in a big way. He has overseen the first phase of the $1.3 billion UCI Health – Irvine campus. In March, he finalized the acquisition of four hospitals from Tenet Healthcare Corp. And he has steered the opening or expansion of 20 outpatient locations over the past five years.

Lefteris was named CEO in April 2020. For 16 months prior, he’d served as chief operating officer, coming to UC Irvine from his post as vice president of operations at UNC Rex Healthcare, a key component of Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based UNC Health Care. He recently spoke with UC Irvine Magazine contributor Cathy Lawhon about UCI Health’s community impact, present and future.

Joe C. Wen & Family Center for Advanced Care
Read more: UCI Health — Irvine opens its doors

The acquisition of Tenet’s Pacific Coast network establishes UCI Health hospitals in Lakewood, Los Alamitos, Fountain Valley and Placentia. You must be excited about expanding UC Irvine’s health mission to more people across the region.

That’s the goal over time – but not all on Day 1. Coworkers and physician partners at Tenet do incredible work. The fun part of all this will be working with local teams on each side to put everything into the blender and see how we can help with our unique brand approach. It’s absolutely a creative opportunity for improving health access and the health status of the community.

In a few different ways. It will give us an additional 858 licensed beds across four new locations, but bed count is no longer the best measure. So much of what we do is outpatient care beyond the four hospital walls. We will increase our number of co-workers by 50 percent and our annual revenue by 40 percent.

The campus is opening in three phases. The Joe C. Wen & Family Center for Advanced Care opened at the end of April. It’s a five-story, 168,000-square-foot outpatient facility that offers adult and pediatric specialty care, as well as urgent care, and digestive health, neuroscience, and extensive laboratory and radiology imaging services. It’s also the new home of the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Coming next will be the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care building, an incredible cancer center twice the size of the one at the Orange campus. The bottom floor is an ambulatory surgery center for all sorts of surgery. That will open this summer. And last but not least is the acute care hospital with 144 beds and a 20 bed emergency department, set to open in late 2025.

– Chad Lefteris

I have the best, most rewarding job because it gives me the greatest opportunity to serve our co-workers – whether it’s a dedicated nurse or the cook in the kitchen or our amazing faculty – and to serve the community we all call home. When I’m out in the community, I get to hear from those we serve so well and see firsthand the impact we have through our unique mission.

Do you know how buffaloes run toward an oncoming storm so that they get through it more quickly? That’s been our approach since my arrival. I remember a discussion early on about whether we should be putting programs on hold or continuing to expand throughout the community. There was some question of maybe holding off because of COVID. But I knew that whatever the need was at that time, it was still going to be there when the pandemic was over. So after some sleepless nights, we went ahead. When most health systems were shrinking or frozen, we redeployed staff to new community locations. We came out of the pandemic stronger than we went into it.

We recently broke ground on a 52-bed UCI Health Rehabilitation Hospital, which will focus on providing physical and occupational therapy. It’s in Irvine about 1.5 miles from UCI Health – Irvine’s Jamboree campus, in partnership with Lifepoint Health. But we can’t grow like this forever. The future will be less about bricks and mortar and more about identifying and growing service lines and programs that meet underserved needs. Even during the pandemic, we initiated two programs new to the region: Orange County’s first adult bone marrow transplant program and first adult complex cardiac ventricular assist device program.

[Laughs] Not a lot. I’m fortunate to have a first-class executive team that allows me to take some breaks. My wife, Sherry, and I have enjoyed learning to be Californians, because we’re not from here. We’re exploring, and we’ve just scratched the surface. I try to ski in the winter and mountain bike. And I really enjoy hitting the local farmers markets on the weekends – and cooking. It works a different side of the brain.