SANTA ROSA -- Gary Greensweig, D.O., will leave his post as chief medical officer for Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and other St. Joseph Health facilities in Sonoma County after 33 years of practicing medicine and working toward establishing the health care organization locally as an integrated system that treats the region's most vulnerable patients.

Starting in August, Dr. Greensweig will become chief physician executive in the Bay Area for Dignity Health, the San Francisco-based health system formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West. The fifth-largest hospital system nationwide, it operates more than 40 facilities in California, Arizona, Nevada and, recently, Oregon.

Dr. John Morrison was named interim chief medical officer for St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County while a permanent successor is sought. He has 30 years of experience as a medical director at various hospitals throughout California and currently serves as medical staff peer review consultant and medical staff educator for the Institute for Medical Quality and the California Medical Association.

In his new role, Dr. Greensweig will help Dignity become more a more integrated health system, a similar role to what he has held in Sonoma County but on a larger scale. 

In his tenure in Sonoma Country, Dr. Greensweig has been a fixture in the local health care field, having helped Santa Rosa Memorial -- the region's only level II trauma center -- transform from a community hospital to the busiest hospital in the area. It serves as both a key referral center and a safety net for some of the sickest patients.

Dr. Greensweig said he is most proud about the relationships he built in Sonoma County.

"I think looking back on 30 years, what I'm most proud of is the longitudinal relationships that have endured during that whole time with patients, families, physicians and our staff," he said. "More than anything, to be in people's lives and to have people let you into their lives is what makes me most happiest."

In a memo to staff, Kevin Klockenga, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Health for Northern California, said, "Gary’s talents and commitment have profoundly shaped St. Joseph Health and our Sonoma County ministry, and we will greatly miss his leadership, camaraderie and dedication to our patients and our mission, vision and values."

Dr. Greensweig has served in numerous key roles with the organization, including former chief of staff and member of the board of trustees at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, founding medical director (1991--1998) of St. Joseph Health’s Mobile Health Clinic, assistant clnical professor in family and community medicine at U.C. San Francisco Medical Center, past member of the board of directors of the Pacific Foundation for Medical Care and former president and CEO of St. Joseph Health Foundation of Northern California.

He also helped start Cherry Street Medical Group, which later became Primary Care Associates, at the time the largest such physician group in the region. It later partnered with Memorial Hospital to create St. Joseph Health Foundation of Northern California.

Recently, he has helped spearhead efforts to grow the Annadel Medical Group. In two years, it has grown from about 15 physicians to more than 60 practitioners and physicians.

"That has helped us a lot in our integrated model," Dr. Greensweig said.

Hospital leadership cited Dr. Greensweig's role in developing positive and evolving changes with local physician groups, which included cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, hospitalists and other specialties, in addition to shifting much of the focus to preventive care.

Efforts to that end include the establishment of the mobile health clinics, dental clinics, primary care services for frail older residents and being an early supporter to fund what has become Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, the largest federally qualified health center in the region.

At the same time, the hospital has become a cutting-edge regional facility, drawing patients from throughout Northern California.

"To have done that and to not have forgotten about the under-served makes me more proud," Dr. Greensweig said.

With Dignity Health, Dr. Greensweig will work out of Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, where he  will work with the system's different medical groups in the Bay Area "to create a model of care that is more integrated and seems more seamless to patients." Much of the focus will be driven by the fast-evolving health care landscape. 

"That's very exciting," he said.

With health care reform taking shape over the next few years, the health care industry is finally moving toward more integration and more efficiency, he added.

"We all -- as in the entire country -- have a way to go on this," he said. "But I think people are working on it. National health reform has spurred people to do it. It's probably the most exciting changes I've seen in the last 15 years. Our challenge is not to complain about the changes but to turn them into positives."

Dr. Greensweig will move to Half Moon Bay with his wife, where they will be closer to their children and grandchildren. 

"I had really thought I would stay in Santa Rosa and that we would retire in Santa Rosa," he said. "So it was a difficult decision."