Steve McKernan, CEO UNM Hospitals
Steve McKernan, CEO UNM Hospitals

After 37 years of service to UNM Hospitals and the people of Bernalillo County and New Mexico, Steve McKernan, chief executive officer of UNM Hospitals, has announced his retirement, effective October 1, 2017.  

Michael Chicarelli, DNP, administrator for professional and support services, will serve as Interim CEO. McKernan will assume the title of Emeritus CEO of UNM Hospitals and work through the end of FY 2018 to assist with a smooth transition. Starting in July 2018, McKernan will continue to assist UNM Hospital as requested by UNM Health Sciences leadership in a consultant role.  

McKernan began his career with UNM Hospital as an accountant in 1980. Early in his career, he met his wife Becky, a native New Mexican, at a hospital leadership retreat at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, N.M. They went on to marry and raise four children together.

“After 37 years of working at UNM Hospitals, it’s time for Becky and me to spend more time together, with our kids and their families,” McKernan said. “Because they are spread out across the country, it’s impossible to see them as much as we would like while I serve as CEO. I must say that working with the staff of UNM Hospitals and the faculty and leadership of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences Center has been the job of a lifetime. 

“I am very fortunate to have found a professional home and a family at the Health Sciences Center. I look forward to watching the hospital, the Health System and the Health Sciences Center, continue to grow.”

Paul B. Roth, MD, MS, Chancellor for Health Sciences, hailed McKernan’s vision and leadership as CEO.

“Steve has been an integral part of a team that has had a relentless focus on improving the care of the people of Bernalillo County and the state,” Roth said. “The Health Sciences Center and the state of New Mexico are indebted to Steve for using his vision, leadership and management skills and vision to grow UNM Hospitals to provide the level and specialties of care that are only available in the biggest teaching hospitals in the country. I have been fortunate to call him a colleague and a friend these many years and I will miss him greatly.”

McKernan worked his way up through the organization and became CEO in 1996. Under his leadership, UNM Hospitals grew to become a highly specialized academic medical center and a safety-net hospital for New Mexico.  

“We have been very fortunate to have had Steve leading the UNM Hospitals for the past 37 years,” said interim president Chaouki Abdallah. “He leaves a legacy of passion and commitment to the health and patient care of all New Mexicans.”

Under McKernan’s leadership, the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion opened in 2008 and throughout his tenure a network of community-based clinics was established. McKernan also served as chief operating officer of the UNM Health System, which spans two hospitals and other clinical delivery system components that serve more than 250,000 individual New Mexicans each year.

McKernan has achieved national prominence in the hospital community, serving on the Board of the America’s Essential Hospitals. He has also been involved in a variety of local community and business groups, including the Rotary Club, the New Mexico Hospital Association and the Boy Scouts of America. 

“I have tremendous admiration and respect for Steve, who has been an important leader in our community and on the national level,” said Debbie Johnson, outgoing chairwoman of the UNM Hospital Board of Trustees. “I have worked with him for three decades in many capacities: as a partner in many community projects, as a patient and caregiver in the UNMH system and on the board, and in every case believe that UNM was extraordinarily fortunate to have a man of his intellect, talent and experience in that role. 

“While the health care industry has been in complete turmoil, Steve has remained focused on ensuring the stability and sustainability of UNM Hospitals and patient care. It has been phenomenal that Steve and his incredible team have kept operations in the black while remaining steadfast in the mission of serving the population with excellence, access and stewardship of public funds. Generations of New Mexicans have and will benefit from his leadership.”  

Jerry McDowell, incoming chair of the Board of Trustees, added, “Over a 37-year tenure at UNM Hospital, Steve McKernan has faithfully served the mission of providing quality health care to the citizens of Bernalillo County. As he retires from his position as CEO, the Board expresses its appreciation for sustained, outstanding service. We wish him the best in a well-deserved retirement."