Welcoming the Nallis: A Family Built on Love, Sacrifice and Faith

Writer  /  Janelle Morrison
Photographer  /  JJ Kaplan

[Editor’s note: We are proud to have been given the opportunity to introduce to the community Jonathan Nalli, St.Vincent Health’s new CEO, and his family. Moreover, we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to St.Vincent Health and Jonathan and his family for making themselves available for this interview. At the age of 39, Jonathan impressively sits at the helm of this 22-hospital system, one of Indiana’s largest, serving Central and Southern Indiana. He and his wife, Cathleen, and their young children, Jonathan, Delaney and their latest addition, adopted newborn daughter Hadley, are acclimating to their
new home in Zionsville and are eager to become engaged in the local communities that St.Vincent Health proudly serves.]

Jonathan Nalli very recently relocated his family to Zionsville after accepting the position as CEO of St.Vincent Health in February of 2014. Jonathan has accomplished a great deal within the health care industry, even though he is only 39 years old. St.Vincent Health is a 22-hospital system that serves Central and Southern Indiana. This faith-based healthcare provider specializes in quality care in a number of service areas, including cardiovascular, women’s health, pediatrics, neurosciences, cancer care, bariatrics, orthopedics and trauma.

Jonathan served as the CEO of Porter Health System, a Community Health Systems affiliate in Valparaiso, Indiana, prior to accepting his current role with St.Vincent Health. The Porter Health System, during Jonathan’s watch as CEO, experienced the construction of a 238-bed replacement regional hospital, generated a net revenue of $310 million, developed a multi-specialty physician group of primary care and surgical providers, and was recognized by the Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly as a Best Place to Work from 2011-2013.

Jonathan, originally from Kentucky, earned his Bachelor of Health Sciences in Health Administration from the University of Kentucky and his MBA from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Jonathan became COO of Chestnut Hill Health System in Philadelphia and then went on to be the COO of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in Pottstown, PA. It was in Pennsylvania that he would meet his partner in life and mother to his children, Cathleen. Originally from north central Pennsylvania, Cathleen would leave her family and childhood home and accompany Jonathan on an exciting journey that would lead them to Valparaiso and now Zionsville.

Jonathan recalled the fateful night he told his fiancée that he had been given an assignment in Indiana. “We were engaged on January 13, 2007, and were in the preparation stages for our wedding in November,” Jonathan said. “I came home from a board meeting one evening and told Cathleen that they wanted me to go oversee a hospital in Indiana for four weeks. She looked at me and asked, ‘What if they offer you the job?’ and I told her they wouldn’t. It [the job] is too big, and I’m too young. She turned around in a knowing and flippant manner and as she walked away, said, ‘Just be home in time for the wedding.’”

“On our way to Cathleen’s sister’s wedding that September, she asked me if they had found somebody for my job,” Jonathan said. “I replied, ‘Well, they’ve offered it to me again.’ She asked, ‘what do you mean, again?’” Jonathan reluctantly came clean and admitted at that point that they had twice presented him with an offer for the position of CEO. “Cathleen turned to me and said, ‘You know, we’ll regret this in 10 years if we don’t do it.’ So, it was actually Cathleen who motivated me to accept the position. It was at that point in time that I recognized the selflessness of this person who was going to be my spouse and what she was willing to sacrifice to make us successful. It is something that I don’t ever forget.”

Jonathan and Cathleen quickly became rooted in their new community. Together they served as co-chairs for the 2011/2012 United Way campaign in Porter County. Jonathan was with Community Health Systems for 15-plus years before accepting his current position with St.Vincent Health. Jonathan’s predecessor, Vincent Caponi, said this about Jonathan: “As a proven healthcare executive with vast experience in growth management strategies, improvement plans and demonstrable results in achieving business objectives, we look forward to Jonathan leading the transformation of our business and building on the successes of our ministry.”

Jonathan spoke about the current status of the health care industry and his overall vision for St.Vincent Health.  “When you look at health care today, I honestly believe we haven’t seen as turbulent an industry since the discussion surrounding the beginning of Medicare in the mid-‘60s,” he explained. “For health care systems to survive, they have to strategize differently. They’ve got to align their resources to be as nimble and proactive as possible. They’ve got to align to achieve the efficiencies necessary to bring about a great health care outcome. We have made the decision to focus on our second phase. The first phase was under Vince Caponi,   a phenomenal man whose career and tenure was spent growing the ministry from 2 to 22 hospitals. Now the second phase of the strategy is focused on how we will align those 22. You hear a lot within and outside of St.Vincent this idea of ‘One St.Vincent.’ We are a statewide system, a statewide ministry aligning all of our resources appropriately. We base that on what we call QEP [quality, experience and performance] and those service outcomes related to it. We put together the latest evidence of how we should be practicing medicine, align those in every ministry and cascade where they need to be.”

Jonathan identifies the discipline and structure he learned while employed by Community Health Systems as the key assets he brings to St.Vincent Health. “If you look at the roots of St.Vincent, we are greater than 133 years old. Our roots are based on care for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized. We do that through ‘One St.Vincent,’ which is a statewide network, and we do that through clinical integration. These together allow us to weather this turbulent market we’re in as a health care industry and not just survive but actually move toward strong viability and nimbleness.”

While understandably proud of her husband, Cathleen weighed in as the spouse of a young and successful CEO and the growth she has witnessed in Jonathan.

“The transformation I’ve seen from a personal side, watching him grow into this leader, is simply amazing,” she said. “He is so young, which is a blessing and a curse because he is so young to be doing what he’s doing. I don’t think people realize what his position
entails. It is a huge undertaking, especially because of where we are in our personal lives with two small children, an adoption, a move and a new house. It’s been a lot. It’s been like this since I met him; it’s a roller coaster but it’s been a great ride.”

When they first met, Jonathan sent an email in which he discussed himself and what he did for a profession. Cathleen, a former schoolteacher, thought he was a hospital cook after his sentence was missing critical punctuation. He wrote that he was a “coo for a hospital” instead of COO. Cathleen laughingly admitted to her mistaken assumption. “I did, and I thought if that man can cook for a hospital, he can cook for me!”

Cathleen is passionate about volunteering and being hands-on in the community. She has served in the Tri Kappa Sorority chapter in Valparaiso as well as in the United Way. She looks forward to joining local organizations and getting involved with the local community.

When asked what the secret to having a successful family life is and balancing one spouse’s high-level executive role with the role of parent and spouse, she replied thoughtfully, “I believe you have to work hard for what you do and you support and love each other. If you do those two things, everything else will fall into place, and that’s the biggest thing for us. No matter what is happening in our lives, as long as we are together, we can be anywhere. We love this area, and it has so much opportunity for us and for our family, but it wouldn’t have to be this wonderful for us to be happy. Together, as a family, we would make it wonderful anywhere.”

Jonathan concludes his sentiments on his family’s new position and roles in the communities they serve. “We want to be advocates of good health outcomes and good health statuses and would love to be viewed in that light. We want to contribute to our communities. We engage in a community for a lot of reasons and want to continue to engage Boone and Hamilton counties in hopes that we can continue to increase and expand the health status of the communities.”

Q & A with Jonathan and Cathleen Nalli

Where are some of your favorite places to go with Cathleen and your family?
“Prior to moving to Zionsville, we lived at City Center in Carmel. The City Center was the center of our universe for two months and allowed us to get out of our apartment with our crazies [kids], and it was wonderful. In Zionsville, we have become fond of the local restaurants like Patrick’s Kitchen and Noah Grant’s. We enjoy going to Lions Park and Scoop’s. The first place we went in Zionsville that we fell in love with was the Dairy Queen. We went for Dilly Bars at 8:45 p.m., and that was a blast.”

Are you a sports fan and what teams do you root for?
“Obviously, I’m a fan of the Kentucky Wildcats. We are big Pacers and Colts fans, although we have a warm spot for the Denver Broncos.”

Clearly not a random affiliation with the Broncos, it leads to the question of how involved is Peyton Manning with the St.Vincent Children’s Hospital since his move to Colorado?
“Peyton remains connected to our children’s hospital to this day. The work he does when he’s back in town and his dedication to call patients every week is remarkable. With that we are loyal Bronco fans. When you think about a namesake to a children’s hospital, for all of the deep-rooted reasons, that man’s it.”

What or who inspired you to choose this career?
“Having attended school before the Internet, we had a ‘career box’ in high school. In my 10th grade English class, I selected hospital administrator, and it all started from there. I have a cousin who is one of the administrators of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, and though he was not the inspiration behind my career choice, he was the element that stoked the fire  and my exposure to what it was and what it meant to be in
the industry.”

How does Indiana’s overall health care system compare to other states?
“We have a ways to go. It’s tough to really say there is a state that is phenomenal in health care. We all have our own different challenges. I look at how progressive Indiana is in terms of that market sector, and I think of Indiana as a progressive state in terms of thought processes. For example, with what we’re seeing with HIP 2.0 [Healthy Indiana Plan], this is going to allow the state of Indiana to flourish. With the expansion of HIP and to use that as our Medicaid expansion product, the health system has all rallied behind it, as they see this as an incredible opportunity.”

What makes St.Vincent Health different from other networks?
“We have such a connection with the Daughters of Charity, and while everyone within the organization respects each other’s faith base, it is the founding faith-based element that is out in front of what our roots are. This faith-based element is, literally, the basis behind everything. Our culture is our mission. Our mission is to care for the poor, the vulnerable and marginalized.”

Cathleen, what does Jonathan like to do when he’s home with your family?
“We just want to be together and relax because we don’t get to do that very much. We love sitting down and reading stories together. He loves to take the kids shopping at the grocery store and to their soccer games. He loves to spend one-on-one time with our son and also with our daughters. That time is special to him.”

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