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John Zerwas, M.D., named new executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the UT System

University of Texas System Chancellor James B. Milliken today announced the appointment of John M. Zerwas, M.D., as executive vice chancellor for health affairs, effective Oct. 1, 2019.

Zerwas will succeed Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., who stepped down in March after five years in the position.

A state and national leader in anesthesiology, health care and health policy, Zerwas built one of the largest anesthesiology groups in the country. He is also a highly regarded leader in the Texas Legislature. He recently announced that he will resign from the Texas House of Representatives on Sept. 30, where he has served for more than 12 years and currently presides as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“I have worked very closely with Dr. Zerwas in the Texas Legislature and have first-hand experience with his longstanding, deep commitment to health care quality and his vast knowledge of the complexities of health care delivery and policies,” said Kevin Eltife, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents. “He comes to the UT System with a very high regard among colleagues in the medical, business and legislative arenas. I know Dr. Zerwas will bring new insights that will benefit us all, and we’re grateful he is willing to make this important public service transition. I could not be more pleased that we were able to recruit him to the UT System.”  

More than two-thirds of the UT System’s annual budget is dedicated to health care, education and research, and UT institutions produce almost two-thirds of the state’s health professionals. Hospitals that are either owned by or affiliated with UT institutions account for more than 8.2 million outpatient visits and 1.6 million inpatient hospital days.

“The UT System is an unparalleled system of education, research and health care in Texas, and it is critical that we have knowledgeable, experienced and respected leadership,” Milliken said. “Dr. Zerwas understands our health enterprise and the needs of Texas, and he will bring his experience from many perspectives to benefit our health institutions and our state. His leadership experience includes ensuring quality care, building physician networks and adapting to rapidly evolving changes in health care economics and policy. I am confident Dr. Zerwas’ contributions will complement the exceptional work of our health institutions’ presidents.”

Zerwas has had a long and distinguished career in medicine, health care administration and innovation, and leadership. In addition to his own medical practice, he served as chief medical officer at Memorial Hermann Healthcare System from 2003 until 2007, where his responsibilities in the advancement of quality, safety, physician alignment and patient care outcomes earned the system national recognition for excellence. During that time, Zerwas also initiated and led a system-wide cultural transformation, educating thousands of employees and physicians, resulting in a drastic reduction of medication errors, catheter-related bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated pneumonias.  

In 2007, Zerwas was named Memorial Hermann’s chief physician integration officer, with a primary focus on physician alignment. As part of that effort, he served as president of three 501a organizations within the hospital system:  Memorial Hermann Medical Group, Memorial Hermann Physicians of Texas and Memorial Hermann Health Network Providers. Those organizations joined forces to become a predominant force in the delivery of health care services in the greater Houston area.

As a physician in US Anesthesia Partners, Zerwas was elected to lead an initiative creating one of the largest and most respected anesthesia groups in the nation, Greater Houston Anesthesiology, PA. As the practice grew to include more than 200 anesthesiologists and 220 anesthetists, Zerwas held positions as the group’s president and director of business development. 

In 2015, the Biotechnology Industry Organization recognized Dr. Zerwas with national recognition as "BIO Legislator of the Year" for writing critical legislation to preserve patient access to innovative and cost-effective biologic medicines in Texas. Zerwas has led health professional associations and served as national president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and state president of its Texas society, where he was also awarded a prestigious distinguished service award.  

He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Houston and medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and had an academic appointment as a clinical associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.   

“I am deeply honored to accept this position and all of the responsibilities to serve UT institutions and the people of Texas that come with it,” Zerwas said. “I look forward to working with Chancellor Milliken and the Board of Regents in providing support to all UT health presidents as they advance their missions in health care, education and research.”

In addition to achievements in the health industry, Zerwas has received countless awards and accolades for his public service in the Texas Legislature. Several include the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute Luminary Award, the Healthcare IT Leader Award, the Harris County Medical Society’s Patient Care Champion Award and the Texas Hospital Association’s Hospital Advocacy Tribute Award.

About The University of Texas System
For more than 130 years, The University of Texas System has been committed to improving the lives of Texans and people all over the world through education, research and health care. With 14 institutions, an enrollment of nearly 240,000 students and an operating budget of $19.5 billion (FY 2019), the UT System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. UT institutions produce more than 60,000 graduates annually and award more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and almost two-thirds of its health professional degrees. Collectively, UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics accounted for more than 8.2 million outpatient visits and 1.6 million hospital days last year. Across UT institutions, research and development expenditures total $2.9 billion – the second highest among U.S. public higher education systems – and the UT System is regularly ranked among the top 10 most innovative universities in the world. The UT System also is one of the largest employers in Texas, with more than 21,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates and members of the National Academies – and more than 83,000 health care professionals, researchers and support staff.

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Karen Adler: kadler@utsystem.edu • 512-499-4360 (direct) • 210-912-8055 (cell)