Norton Healthcare CEO Williams To Retire

Began career as youngest-ever hospital administrator in Kentucky

Norton Healthcare today announced that its CEO, Stephen A. Williams, is retiring from the organization at the end of the year. Williams has served as CEO of Norton Healthcare for the past 23 years and has been with the organization for 39 years of dedicated service.

Williams began his career in 1972 as the youngest-ever hospital administrator in Kentucky (at age 22) at the state’s then smallest hospital in his native Livingston County. He joined Norton Healthcare (then known as NKC) in 1977 as an Assistant to the Executive Vice President. He was named Vice President of Management Services in 1984, and two years later he was appointed to the role of Vice President, Quality. In 1988 he accepted the role of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and he was named President and CEO in 1993.

“The organization today known as Norton Healthcare enjoyed its greatest period of growth and expansion under Steve’s leadership,” said Donald H. Robinson, chairman of the Norton Board of Trustees.

“Under his leadership, Norton Healthcare has risen to be consistently rated as one of the nation’s top 100 integrated health care systems. More importantly, it has achieved tremendous growth and expansion of services throughout the system during his time as CEO, more than doubling in size.”

That growth came through the expansion of services at Norton Hospital and Norton’s downtown children’s hospital; the acquisition of the former Suburban Hospital and its subsequent transformation into a women and children’s hospital; the acquisition of Audubon Hospital and its expansion of services including renovations now underway; and the development of the Brownsboro campus, including construction of Norton Brownsboro Hospital, Norton’s children’s outpatient center, and two other outpatient medical services facilities.

Norton Healthcare now provides 51 percent of the hospital services in Louisville, double its 25 percent market share when Williams became President and CEO. With more than 67,500 hospital admissions per year, Norton Healthcare provides approximately 2.6 million patient encounters annually at its hospital campuses, 20 outpatient centers and more than 225 care locations throughout the region.  That includes the clinics and offices of more than 800 employed physicians and mid-level providers, making Norton Medical Group and its components (including Norton Cancer Institute and Norton Neurosciences Institute) one of the largest and most successful multi-specialty groups in the nation, and a major factor in Norton Healthcare’s success. That all began in 1994 when Williams hired the first four physicians.

Norton Healthcare, the third largest private employer in the Louisville area, now has more than 13,000 employees, compared to about 4,600 when Williams became President and CEO. Under his leadership the Norton Healthcare management team has also vastly improved the organization’s financial performance, increasing net revenues more than 700 percent (from $269 million to more than $2 billion), and increasing net assets more than 600 percent (from $448 million to more than $2.8 billion).  A recent study found that Norton Healthcare has a $3.4 billion annual economic impact to the local economy.

Williams also expanded Norton’s network of affiliates and partners for both clinical care and academic relationships, adding Lifepoint, JCTC, Bellarmine University, University of Kentucky, and many others. He helped lead in developing, and is serving as the first chair of, the Kentucky Health Collaborative. The collaborative includes ten leading hospital systems determined to make a difference in Kentucky’s poor health rankings by increasing access, improving services, achieving efficiencies and other important goals for the Commonwealth.

Another major contribution Williams brought to Norton, for which the organization has received national recognition, has been the development of programs to measure, report, and continuously improve quality and safety in health care.  Many of today’s health care industry quality standards and norms have their roots in work that Williams and his team pioneered at Norton in the mid-1980s. Norton was the first recipient of a national award for leadership in health care quality in 1987, and nearly 25 years later, received the National Quality Healthcare Award from the National Quality Forum.

While Williams has been dedicated to health care leadership in Kentucky for 44 years, he has also been a leader in both civic and professional organizations. That includes serving on the board of the American Hospital Association and as chairman of its seven-state Regional Policy Board; chairman of the Kentucky Hospital Association; chairman of Health Insights Foundation; co-founder of Passport Health Plan; co-founder of University Medical Center; founding co-chair of Greater Louisville, Inc. and currently serving on its executive committee;  Kentucky Chamber of Commerce board; Bellarmine University board of trustees; Leadership Louisville; Metro United Way board chairman; Fund for the Arts; Greater Louisville Health Enterprises Network; Bank One, Kentucky; Fifth Third Bank, Kentucky; and Porter Bank Corp.

Williams received his bachelor’s degree in business from Murray State University in 1972 and a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Minnesota in 1979.  He has received distinguished alumnus awards from both of those universities. In 2010, former Kentucky governor Steven Beshear appointed him to the board of regents of Murray State University. In June, 2016, he was elected chairman of that board, after serving as vice-chairman and chairman of its finance committee.

Williams has received numerous local, state, and national honors and awards, including leadership service awards from American College of Healthcare Executives, Healthcare Forum, Health Insights, Kentucky Hospital Association, Business First, YMCA, Junior Achievement, Volunteers of America, and many others.

The Norton Healthcare Board of Trustees also announced that Russell F. Cox, President, Norton Healthcare, was named Williams’ successor as President and CEO of the organization. Cox joined Norton Healthcare in 2000. “The combination of Russ’ more than 30 years of experience in  health care management, together with he and Steve having worked side-by-side the last 12 years in leading Norton Healthcare,  makes him uniquely suited and well positioned for stepping into the role of President and CEO,” said Robinson. “This has been a nine-year thoughtfully planned transition process, so the patients served by Norton Healthcare, its employees, physicians, affiliates and partners can all be assured that Norton’s focus on its mission, vision, and values will continue seamlessly. “


About Norton Healthcare

For 130 years, not-for-profit Norton Healthcare’s faith heritage has guided its mission to provide quality health care to all those it serves.  Today, Norton Healthcare is a leader in serving adult and pediatric patients throughout Greater Louisville, Southern Indiana, the commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond. With over 13,000 employees, the NHC is Louisville’s third largest private employer, providing care at more than 225 locations throughout Greater Louisville and Southern Indiana. It includes five hospitals with 1,837 licensed beds and 20 outpatient centers. Norton Healthcare has over 2000 physicians on its consolidated medical staff.  Norton Medical Group includes over 800 employed physicians and mid-level providers, making it one of the largest and most successful multi-disciplinary medical groups in the nation.  Norton has over $ 2.8 billion in assets, $2 billion in annual net revenues, and has more than $3.8 billion annual economic impact to the state and regional economy.  More information about Norton Healthcare is available at