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Johnson takes over as Roswell Park interim CEO earlier than planned

Candace S. Johnson has taken over as interim president and CEO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute effective Thursday, two months earlier than planned, to minimize the disruption to its operations and to ensure stability during the leadership transition, the cancer center’s board chairman said.

Johnson is replacing the outgoing CEO, Dr. Donald L. “Skip” Trump, now instead of Jan. 1 as scheduled. Trump, who announced in July his plan to retire at the end of the year, will serve as a consultant to Johnson and the board of directors after leaving the post he’s held since 2007.

“It was determined by everybody that it probably made more sense to give Candace more time, with Skip around, to make this transition. So it was done for that reason,” Michael L. Joseph, the board chairman, said in an interview.

The board of directors approved the accelerated transition to Johnson at its Oct. 23 meeting and informed employees in a memo Thursday.

Joseph told The Buffalo News the decision to have Johnson take over earlier than planned is not a sign the board is dissatisfied with Trump’s recent job performance. Instead, he said Trump, Johnson and board members mutually decided it would be best if Johnson could start in her new position as soon as possible while Trump is available as an adviser.

“Everyone thinks that’s best for the institution,” Joseph said.

Johnson also will assume the positions of cancer center director and principal investigator of the Cancer Center Support Grant, funded by the National Cancer Institute. She plans to form a committee of Roswell Park faculty and administrators to assist her in leading the hospital.

The cancer center’s unionized employees say they will continue to provide essential services to patients during the transition.

“We look forward to working with Ms. Johnson to keep this hospital great,” Thomas Piernik, president of CSEA Roswell Park Local 303, said in a statement.

Johnson is not a candidate for the permanent CEO’s job but will continue to serve as cancer center director once a replacement is named.

Joseph told employees the search for a permanent chief continues, with the assistance of the search firm Korn/Ferry International, and board members expect to interview finalists within the next few months.

Joseph said in the interview that about 400 people contacted the search firm about the CEO’s job. Korn/Ferry whittled that list down to the 20 most-qualified candidates before further narrowing it down to seven candidates deemed the best fit with Roswell Park.

The board expects to meet with four finalists, Joseph said, and hopes to have someone in place within the next six months.