After three years as chair of the RWJBarnabas Health board of trustees, Fidelco Group and Fidelco Realty Group Chairman Marc Berson steps down at the end of this month. Succeeding him is Lester Owens, senior vice president and head of operations for Wells Fargo & Co.
RWJBarnabas Health announced Owens’ appointment, which is effective immediately, on June 28.
“Lester has been at the helm of some of the largest and most well-known companies in the world, consistently managing complex, multifaceted projects with skill and dedication,” said Barry Ostrowsky, chief executive officer of RWJBarnabas Health, in a prepared statement. “His leadership and expertise have been tremendous assets to our organization and will be instrumental to our continued growth.”
Owens is the first African American to hold the position for the health care system.
At Wells Fargo, he oversees a team of more than 70,000 employees, and is responsible for crafting a more unified and integrated approach to the company’s business operations. Before that, he was global head of operations at BNY Mellon, and Owens has prior experience leading operational functions at JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Citibank, and Bankers Trust, RWJBarnabas said.
He is also a founding member of the RWJBarnabas board and has served as vice chair since 2019. His committee memberships include Compliance, Compensation, Nominating and Governance, as well as Racism and Social Justice. The new chair is also a longtime trustee of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where has served on the Compensation, Finance, Pediatric Program and Investment committees.
As chair, Owens will continue to focus RWJBarnabas’ mission to provide accessible, high-quality care in the Garden State.
“I feel very privileged to take on this role at such a pivotal moment for health care, as the needs of RWJBarnabas Health’s patients, employees, communities, and other stakeholders are quickly evolving,” he said in a prepared statement. “The system is wholly committed to its mission of improving the health, quality of life, and vitality of the communities it serves. It has approached this in thoughtful and innovative ways that will benefit all stakeholders for years to come.”
RWJBarnabas said Owens’ priorities will include continuing to transform the patient experience, advancing mental and behavioral health for individuals across the lifespan, and driving social impact through strategic programs and policies that ensure health equity and address social, economic and environmental conditions that affect health outcomes. He will work to advance the academic health care system, as well, and expand the partnerships with Rutgers University.
“We are pleased to welcome Lester as our new board chair,” said Mark Manigan, president of RWJBarnabas Health. “His voice and vision will help RWJBarnabas Health continue to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve.”
In a blog post announcing Berson’s exit from the chair position, RWJBarnanbas said his tenure “will forever be known as a transformational time of growth for the health care system.” That includes having served as chair of Barnabas Health in 2016 when it merged with Robert Wood Johnson Health System, creating RWJBarnabas health, which has grown to be a $6.5 billion health system.
“Marc’s influence goes well beyond the boardroom at RWJBarnabas Health. He cares deeply about our mission and has dedicated himself wholeheartedly to our organization for many years,” Ostrowsky said in the blog. “Marc not only helped to build our strategic vision, he was a true partner in executing on initiatives to improve health care delivery that continue to be transformative for our communities.”
Berson will continue to serve as a member of the board and as chairman emeritus at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, according to the blog.
Berson and Ostrowsky were both recognized as NJBIZ 2022 ICON Award winners on June 28.