Dr. Gene Lindsey yesterday became the permanent chief executive of Atrius Health of Newton, the collection of physician practices that includes Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates.
Lindsey, 63, has served as interim chief executive of the two organizations since the former chief executive, Debra A. Geihsler, was forced out in February.
Lindsey's selection had been widely expected in Boston's medical community. An internist and cardiologist, he has been with Harvard Vanguard and its predecessor organizations for 33 years and since 1986 has served in various leadership positions.
"I've learned the organization from the bottom up, but I've never been a manager before now," said Lindsey in an interview. "My approach is that decisions about healthcare should be made as closely as possible to the patient."
Harvard Vanguard is one of the largest physician practices in the United States that is not tied to a hospital. It was initially part of the health insurer that became Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. The doctors and the insurance company split in 1997.
Since then, Harvard Vanguard has created alliances with Dedham Medical Associates, Southboro Medical Group, South Shore Medical Center, South Shore Medical Group, and Granite Medical in Quincy. It put them all under an umbrella organization that was renamed Atrius Health in 2007.
Throughout its history, Harvard Vanguard has swung between its core focus on patient care and physician autonomy, and occasional bouts of fiscal reality and hard-headed management. Geihsler, who was not a doctor, was only on the job for about two years before irreparable differences of opinion between her and the group's doctors surfaced.
The choice of Lindsey reaffirms the doctors' primacy within Harvard Vanguard.
Lindsey said that by the end of the year he plans to create a new strategic plan for Atrius, put in place a new system to measure employee satisfaction, and take steps to improve patient satisfaction.
Dr. Carl Isihara, chairman of the Harvard Vanguard board of trustees, said, "As one of the first doctors to join Harvard Vanguard, Gene embodies the spirit of our physician-led organization. Gene has demonstrated that he has his finger on the pulse of the organization."
Lindsey said he is considering building another suburban care center like Harvard Vanguard's Weymouth Woods facility, which provides cancer treatment and high-tech diagnostics in a convenient location for patients south of Boston.
Harvard Vanguard has about 500 physicians, and Atrius's other practices have about 200.
Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.