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St. Luke's CEO, president steps down

Kevin Nokels started at St. Luke's in August 2019.

Kevin Nokels file
St. Luke's President and CEO Kevin Nokels speaks Thursday, Aug. 20, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the hospital's new emergency department and cardiac lab. (2020 file / News Tribune)
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St. Luke's CEO and President Kevin Nokels made the decision to leave his post Tuesday night, about 15 months after joining the Duluth-based health care system.

St. Luke’s Chief Financial Officer Eric Lohn and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Van Deelen will fill his role, according to a news release from St. Luke's.

St Luke's co-presidents CEOs.jpg
St. Luke’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Van Deelen (left) and Chief Financial Officer Eric Lohn were named interim Co-Presidents/CEOs Wednesday by the St. Luke’s Board of Directors after Kevin Nokels stepped down after serving as President/CEO since August of 2019. (Submitted)

The St. Luke's board of directors selected Van Deelen and Lohn to both serve as interim co-president and CEO at least through the middle of 2021. At that point, the board will reevaluate to determine a permanent plan.

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Nokels started at St. Luke's in August 2019 , succeeding the former CEO and president of 23 years, John Strange.

He previously served as the president of CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy in Omaha, where he oversaw $225 million in construction projects.

After St. Luke's named Nokels the next CEO and president, St. Luke's Board Chair Jeff Borling told the News Tribune in 2019 that he was joining at an "opportune time" as the health system was in the process of building a new $37.5 million emergency department and cardiac lab that opened late last summer.

The emergency department and cardiac lab are a part of a $249 million multiyear plan to redevelop the downtown Duluth campus.

Herb Minke, the vice chair of the board, thanked Nokels in a news release for the talent he brought to the health care system, especially during the pandemic.

“We appreciate Eric’s and Nick’s willingness to step into these roles,” Minke added. “We are confident in their ability to lead St. Luke’s, along with the rest of the executive team. They have already showed exemplary leadership during this pandemic and the challenges it has presented.”

While acting as interim co-president and CEO, both Van Deelen and Lohn will continue serving in the roles they currently hold. Lohn has worked as St. Luke's chief financial officer for more than seven years and Van Deelen has practiced emergency medicine for more than 22 years at St. Luke's. He was named chief medical officer in January.

The News Tribune published a story online Wednesday morning, "St. Luke's office staffers say they're not allowed to work from home ," in which office employees said Nokels doesn't want employees working from home unless they're in quarantine or isolation. Nokels refuted those claims.

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A St. Luke's spokesperson told the News Tribune that Nokels' decision to step down did not have anything to do with what was alleged in the story.

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