Ron Whiting is going home.
After 12 years in Wichita, the California native is returning to his home state to be director of care quality, partnerships and relationships for the Permanente Federation, which comprises physician corporations and partnerships of health care giant Kaiser Permanente.
The executive director of Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care said his departure from the city and the group he helped found is bittersweet.
“It was not an easy decision, but I felt it was something I needed to do,” Whiting said Monday.
His last day at the coalition will be Sept. 4.
The coalition was launched in 2008 with a handful of companies as its members. Today, it has 53 members — representing more than 100,000 people — including companies such as Bombardier Learjet, Meritrust Credit Union and IMA of Kansas. The group’s members seek to use their leverage as purchasers of health care to improve the quality of care and lower health care costs.
Whiting said he’s a fourth-generation Californian who came to Kansas in December 1999, after meeting his wife, a Wichita native, while they were in graduate school in San Diego. He started work in Wichita as a consultant for a southern California firm that provided consulting for medical practice groups and other health care organizations. That work led to his joining the coalition in 2008.
Health care leaders said Whiting was the right person to lead the organization from its start.
“I think Ron has been able to create a dialogue that was previously not present in our community between health care providers, employers and even insurers, to talk about how to improve in health care in terms of cost and quality,” said Jon Rosell, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County.
Jill Beckman, president of the coalition’s board of directors and division director of people services for Intrust Bank, said the plan is to hire an interim executive director. Then, the executive committee and the board will “discuss the next steps” for a permanent leader.
“He has obviously meant a lot, played a critical role in the development of the coalition,” Beckman said.
Whiting said he thinks the coalition is “in a good spot,” and it’s an appropriate time o bring on a new leader.
The Permanente job “is an opportunity that I had that is important for me and my family.” Still, Whiting added, “this is the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”