Gerald Katz, hospital administrator, consultant

Posted: February 21, 2014

Gerald Katz, 74, of Chestnut Hill, an administrator and consultant dedicated to helping hospitals remain solvent and compassionate, died Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Kindred Hospital in Havertown. The cause was lung disease, said his wife, Ellen Magen.

Mr. Katz worked with more than 400 hospitals and the strategic planning of 15 hospital mergers.

The son of a candy-store owner, Mr. Katz grew up in Bayonne, N.J. After attending yeshiva as a teenager, he transferred to a secular high school.

As a Rutgers University undergraduate, he worked as a cashier at a hospital to help pay tuition. It was there that he imagined a career running a hospital.

"It was not his inclination to be a doctor," said his son, Andrew, "but he loved the idea of medicine and being a part of taking care of people."

After earning a master's degree in public health at the University of Pittsburgh, Mr. Katz moved to Saskatchewan in the early days of Canada's national health plan, which inspired his belief in universal access to medical care.

Mr. Katz served with the U.S. Public Health Service, then assumed leadership roles in New York with Beth Israel Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

In 1971, he moved to Philadelphia, joining the administration of Einstein Medical Center and then the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He later became president of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

In 1991 he founded the Katz Consulting Group, which was bought by KPMG Peat Marwick. Mr. Katz then branched out again on his own, forming another consulting firm, which was bought by Kurt Salmon Associates, an international consulting company.

"Jerry's insights were truly invaluable," said John Cacciamani, CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital. "Much of it had to do with his knowledge and his intelligence, but also his experience."

Although Mr. Katz served as the hospital's board chairman, he wanted to be treated the same as any other patient. In January, he was treated there without alerting Cacciamani, or saying anything to his caregivers about his status.

"It was hard for him to go through the system as a patient," Magen said. "He saw how the patient is still not the central focus. How doctors are siloed. How there are repeated tests. But he also saw how many amazing people there are in health care."

Mr. Katz, who quit smoking more than 20 years ago, had a long struggle with lung disease.

He met his wife, an interior designer, when her firm designed his office. It was not until years later, after both had divorced, that they ran into one another again and fell in love. They married in 1988. Nine years ago, they adopted their daughter, Phoebe, from China.

Mr. Katz's taste was at once sophisticated and unpretentious, Magen said. He loved the theater, the Philadelphia Orchestra and dining at the Four Seasons as he much as he enjoyed his local Chinese restaurant and the Rolling Stones.

He decorated his walls with Italian futurist lithographs and images of his sports idol, Joe DiMaggio.

Although he worked long hours and traveled often, when his children were young, Mr. Katz was nearly always home for dinner by 6 p.m., his son said.

Mr. Katz, a high school friend of former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, was a lifelong progressive. Two days before he died, his wife said, Mr. Katz asked her if she had caught the latest Chris Matthews commentary on MSNBC.

Although he left New York decades ago, Mr. Katz's devotion to the Yankees endured. At home, his son said, "he would go out to our backyard with his radio and point . . . the antenna, like it was a divining rod, toward Yankee Stadium."

Magen joked, "Maybe he decided he was finally able to close his eyes because he knew that Derek Jeter was retiring."

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by daughters Jessica and Phoebe; four grandchildren; a sister; and his first wife, Linda Soren.

A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at 11 a.m. at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks, 6410 N. Broad St. Interment will be in Roosevelt Memorial Park, Trevose.

215-854-2590 @dribbenonphilly

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