Karen Teitelbaum, the president and CEO of the North Lawndale-based Sinai Chicago health system, will be leaving her position by the end of the year.
Tietelbaum has been with Sinai for 15 years and has served as its head since 2014. The health system’s statement credits her bringing Sinai to profitability, diversifying Sinai’s executive team and developing relations with area organizations.
In an official statement, Teitelbaum didn’t delve into the reasons for her departure, stating only that it was “a tremendously difficult decision.”
Sinai officials stated that Teitelbaum will stay on as a senior executive consultant until June 30, 2022, in order to help with the transition to new leadership.
Sinai Chicago grew out of Mt. Sinai Hospital, 1500 S Fairfield Ave., and established a large presence on the West and South sides through expansions and mergers.
The system’s other North Lawndale facilities include the Schwab Rehabilitation Clinic, 1401 S. California Ave.; the Sinai Children’s Hospital, 1500 S. Fairfield Ave.; the Sinai Infectious Diseases Center, 1414 S. Fairfield Ave.; and the Sinai Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Center, 2653 W. Ogden Ave.
North Lawndale is also home to the Sinai Community Institute, which looks at social, economic and environmental factors to develop health and social service programs for the community, and the Sinai Urban Health Institute, which researches health issues affecting the community and develops solutions to them.
Throughout the pandemic, the Sinai Community Institute worked with several area nonprofits to provide services, while the Urban Health Institute has been tracking statistics on COVID-19 infections and vaccinations on the West Side and other communities served by the health system.
Sinai Chicago is also one of the founding members of West Side United, a regional effort established by West Side healthcare providers to address issues affecting residents’ health.
According to the health system’s statement, in her seven years as CEO, Tietelbaum “recruited and developed a high-performing, nationally recognized, diverse executive team” and reversed around $42 million in financial losses, leading Sinai to make a $32.6 million profit. This was partially due to a $2.3 million a year increase in fundraising activity.
Teitelbaum’s tenure hasn’t been frictionless. In July 2017, the Sinai Children’s Hospital closed its in-patient pediatric trauma center, citing low usage. According to a Chicago Tribune report at the time, on average, only about six out of 24 pediatric beds were occupied. The hospital used the space to expand cardiac and medical intensive care, as well as in-patient behavioral health services.
In November 2019, Sinai narrowly averted a labor strike by nursing assistants, housekeepers, dietitians, technicians and transportation workers who worked at Mt. Sinai and Schwab.
The unionized employees complained about low pay, inadequate staffing levels and the lack of community investment. Sinai agreed to raise pay, reduce employee contributions to health insurance and increase staffing levels. The agreement was reached three days before a strike was scheduled to take place.
Vince Williams, the chair of Sinai Chicago’s board of directors, indicated that the board will conduct a nationwide search, with the goal of picking Teitelbaum’s replacement by the end of the year.
“Karen’s accomplishments during her time at Sinai Chicago have been impressive and she has had a profound impact on healthcare not only in Chicago, but across the nation,” he stated. “She has led the financial and operational transformation of Sinai Chicago, steering the system through a global pandemic and positioning Sinai for continued success in its second century of service to the community.”
Teitelbaum said that one of her major priorities has been to ensure that Sinai was “a champion and advocate for equity and respect for all.”