Margaret Sabin said Wednesday she will resign March 16 as CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services after nearly 10 years of transforming the company from a financially struggling also-ran into a major local health care player and launching an ambitious restructuring of its two-hospital system.

Sabin plans to "remain very active in the Colorado Springs community and her next adventure will involve pursuing her passion for population health management," says a Penrose-St. Francis news release.

"This has to do with my love of population health management. I want to try to do something while I still have runway in my career that is more dedicated to that goal," Sabin said. "I haven't had much time to do that while running one of the biggest hospital (systems) in the state, so now I want to focus more on population health."

A committee of senior management, board members, community leaders and physician "partners" from Penrose St. Francis and Centura Health, corporate parent of Penrose-St. Francis, will launch a national search for her replacement, but an interim CEO will be announced soon, the release said. Sabin said she made the decision earlier, but did not announce her plans until Wednesday to allow the Penrose-St. Francis board to be "the first to hear."

Sabin said she began thinking about a career change after writing guest editorials on senior health and childhood obesity published in December and February in The Gazette, "That's when the idea took hold to do more along those lines. I have a few ideas and I will settle on something after spring break," she said.

Sabin took over as CEO of Penrose-St. Francis in late 2008, three months after St. Francis Medical Center opened in northeast Colorado Springs and a few weeks after the system told employees it fell 30 percent short of its budgeted financial goals for the year.

When she took over the company, it trailed Memorial Hospital, then city-owned, by a 2:1 ratio in market share and has now pulled even with Memorial, which is leased and operated by UCHealth. Penrose-St. Francis also is one of just eight hospital systems nationwide to be ranked among the nation's top 50 hospitals by Denver-based HealthGrades for 10 consecutive years.

"Bringing stability to the day-to-day operations was the focus at the beginning, but all metrics of performance are now the highest they have ever been," Sabin said. "That allowed us to focus on becoming a world-class hospital and promoting health in the communities that we serve. We want to keep them from getting sick."

She previously had been CEO of the California-based Sutter Health Partners, where in three years she turned around a hospital that had lost $6 million to an $18 million profit.

Earlier, Sabin led Swedish Medical Center in Englewood and Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.

Sabin said she took the local job because Penrose-St. Francis had "so much potential to continue to grow, to continue to be just a role model. I don't think we need to look at Mayo Clinic for all the answers. I think we have them here in Colorado Springs, and I would just like to help this organization fulfill that destiny."

Under Sabin, Penrose-St. Francis launched a $102 million expansion of St. Francis Medical Center in May, to be completed next year, and will increase its Emergency Department beds from 23 to 48, its neonatal intensive care beds from 25 to 46 and its operating rooms from five to eight.

She also led the company's ambitious plan to acquire an 80-acre site in northwest Colorado Springs to eventually replace its primary campus on North Nevada Avenue for all inpatient and emergency room services.

Sabin also pioneered building "health neighborhoods," in which Centura operated physician practices, rehabilitation clinics, imaging centers and other health services under one roof in Monument and both central and southern Colorado Springs.

She last year gave up management responsibilities for St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo and St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City to focus solely on the company's major expansion projects in Colorado Springs.

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