Detroit Medical Center executive Herman Gray, M.D., is expected to leave the health system to become president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan at the end of the month.
The United Way board of directors was set to vote on the appointment this morning.
Gray, who is executive vice president, pediatric health services at DMC, will succeed Michael Brennan, who is stepping down from a 30-year career with United Way and nearly 12 years leading the Detroit-based affiliate, as Crain's first reported in January.
To some, the physician and seasoned health care executive's move to lead a human services nonprofit may be surprising. But the United Way board "felt Dr. Gray's understanding of the community, his passion for helping children and families and his proven business acumen made him the ideal leader as we evolve into the next chapter of United Way's role of creating positive community change in ... education, financial security and basic needs," United Way Chairwoman Beth Ardisana said in a statement.
Gray, 65, said he sees the move to United Way as the capstone to the career he's been blessed to have.
Before taking his current role at DMC in January 2014, Gray was president and CEO of DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit for more than eight years. During his tenure, the hospital transitioned to a for-profit operation, following Vanguard Health Systems Inc.'s 2011 acquisition of DMC.
Gray also served as senior vice president of DMC and COO of Children's Hospital.
The graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School was a chief pediatric resident at Children's Hospital in the late 1970s.
He later earned a master's degree in business administration in a physicians' executive program from the University of Tennessee.
Gray said he was the hometown boy who became CEO of the hospital in which he trained.
"I was very grateful for that opportunity, but the things that drove me to become a physician in the first place and to become a hospital administrator really derive from trying to fulfill whatever my purpose is here to serve others, to give because so much has been given to me," he said. "In that way, going to United Way is not all that much of a leap."
He views the transition to United Way as another way to improve the health of the community, whether in terms of strengthening the safety and infrastructure of a neighborhood or family, helping young parents learn how to care for their children, ensuring adults and children have enough to eat or that they can pay their bills so their water isn't shut off.
There's an interconnectivity to a community's health, Gray said.
He recalled a young child being treated for a bone infection at Children's Hospital who could not be released because his family did not have a refrigerator and couldn't keep the liquid antibiotic he needed cold. The hospital was able to use grant funding from Sparky Anderson's Catch fund to purchase a refrigerator for the family, Gray said.
"The collaboration of community organizations ... like United Way with health care delivery systems ... (is) only going to grow over time as we learn that if you can make sure Grandma has heat on in the home and is well fed every day, she's not going to get readmitted to the hospital," he said.
Gray serves on the boards of national, state and local professional and community organizations, including Children's Hospital Association, Skillman Foundation, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the U.S. Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.
Among other awards, he was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion in 2011.