Cardinal Health Hires West Wireless Health Institute’s Inaugural CEO

4/11/12Follow @bvbigelow

It felt like an auspicious time when Don Casey arrived two years ago as the inaugural CEO for San Diego’s new West Wireless Health Institute. Founders Gary and Mary West, who made their fortune in telemarketing, had pledged a total of $90 million to the nonprofit institute, where Casey proclaimed the mission was to “innovate, validate, advocate, invest, and commercialize” advanced wireless health technologies.

But the bloom was off the rose when Casey’s departure was announced a few weeks ago. The statement even mentioned he was expecting “to accept a position with a major health care company.”

That anticipated job presumably came through yesterday. Cardinal Health (NYSE: [[CAH]]), the health service giant with annual revenue of $103 billion, says Casey is joining its $9 billion medical products and services business, effective April 16.

In its statement, the Dublin, OH-based company says Casey, 52, will assume full management responsibility for Cardinal’s medical segment, including medical-surgical products and services for hospitals, medical offices, labs, long-term care facilities and other healthcare providers. He’ll be reporting to George Barrett, Cardinal’s chairman and CEO.

It sounds a little like the job Casey had before he was named as the wireless health institute’s first CEO in March 2010. He was previously the worldwide chairman of Johnson & Johnson’s comprehensive care group and a member of J&J’s executive committee. Casey oversaw J&J’s cardiovascular, diagnostic, diabetes, and vision care franchises around the world.

Is it possible that Casey tired of the balmy coastal zone around La Jolla, and longed instead for the winters of suburban Columbus, OH?

It seems clear that the institute’s top job proved to be less interesting, or perhaps less effective, than it once appeared—and I wonder if medical device regulators might have played a role in changing those expectations. As I previously reported, the institute moved at this time last year to subtly recast itself—downplaying its initial billing as helping to commercialize wireless health technologies and instead emphasizing its role in working to lower the cost of healthcare.

Casey plans to continue serving on the WWHI board of directors, so it’s not like he’s leaving San Diego forever. Yet what’s next for the institute itself?

A spokesman says, “Our search for a CEO is progressing and we will let you know when we have an announcement to make.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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