Kerry Gillihan, president and chief executive officer of Cardinal Hill Healthcare System for 18 years, will leave that job Jan. 4, according to hospital officials.
Gillihan, 59, who has been the leader of the physical rehabilitation hospital since 1993, told board members he needed extra time to pursue a doctorate in health administration at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, officials said.
Cardinal Hill is a non-profit owned by the Kentucky Easter Seal Society. Each of its three hospitals is governed by a local board of directors. Louisville has a Cardinal Hill rehabilitation center; Fort Thomas has a Cardinal Hill specialty hospital for patients with complex medical conditions; and Florence has a Cardinal Hill outpatient center.
In 2008, the last year for which tax returns for the Lexington organization are available, Gillihan earned a salary of $299,912.
Gillihan could not be reached for comment, but said in a release that the hospital staff members "make Cardinal Hill the special healthcare icon that it is."
He had previously worked for Mary Breckinridge Healthcare in Hyden and for Baptist Healthcare Systems Inc., administering hospitals in Corbin and Paducah.
Mike Kanarek, chairman of the Kentucky Easter Seal Society board of directors, said that a search committee would be formed with a goal of naming a new president within six to eight months.
Kanarek said the current 100-bed expansion of Cardinal Hill in Lexington "is a testament to his leadership, and he will be missed by both the staff and board of directors."
Cardinal Hill has 108 inpatient beds at the Versailles Road location; the expansion is expected to be completed next summer. At that time, the 34 beds Cardinal Hill operates at UK HealthCare's Good Samaritan hospital rehabilitation unit will move to the Versailles Road location.
"The hospital is going to be in very good shape" until the next president is appointed, Kanarek said.
Cardinal Hill opened in 1950 as a hospital to treat children with polio.