BREWER, Maine — Dr. Erik Steele, a former emergency room doctor who rose through the ranks to become chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, is leaving for a job in Ohio.

Steele, a longtime health columnist for the Bangor Daily News, will become chief medical officer at Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio, EMHS announced Wednesday.

“While this represents a loss for EMHS, we are proud of Erik as he takes on this exciting new growth opportunity,” M. Michelle Hood, EMHS CEO, said in a news release. “Summa is a large system that includes eight hospitals, as well as a health plan. Like EMHS, Summa is embracing health reform and making significant changes to the delivery of care in the competitive Ohio market.”

Steele has worked for EMHS and its flagship hospital, Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center, for more than two decades. After graduating as a doctor of osteopathy from the University of New England in 1987, Steele completed his residency at EMMC in 1991. He has since served as a part-time faculty member in the residency program.

Steele held several administrative positions at EMMC in emergency, trauma care and other acute care areas, becoming vice president of patient care services in 2002. He moved to the EMHS home office in Brewer in 2005 as the system’s first chief medical officer.

Steele said he’s ready for a new challenge and the chance to grow as a leader.

“I’ve loved being here,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “This is about a great opportunity, it’s not about me leaving something I don’t like, just the opposite. Maine will always be in my heart.”

Summa is one of 25 to 40 health care organizations nationally that includes a health plan, an approach Steele described as “the right recipe.”

“Organizations that have a health plan as part of them are going to be ideally positioned to do really innovative things in the health care reform environment,” he said.

If all goes well, Steele said he hopes to one day get the opportunity to run the Summa system.

The date of Steele’s formal departure remains uncertain, but he likely will leave in mid-May, he said. Steele expects to begin his job at Summa at the end of June, he said.

He hopes to find a way to continue treating patients, alongside his administrative responsibilities, Steele said.

“I’ve said before, ‘You can take my stethoscope from my cold dead hands,’ kind of like Charlton Heston,” he joked.

Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and...