Swedish Mourns Death of its Former President and CEO, Richard Peterson

Swedish Mourns Death of its Former President and CEO, Richard Peterson

SEATTLE, Nov. 10, 2008 -- The entire Swedish family was deeply saddened to learn that the medical center's former president and CEO, Richard Peterson, died unexpectantly in his sleep early Friday (Nov. 7) at age 66.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Richard's wife, Rosemary, their three children, as well as their other immediate family members and friends.

A funeral service was held Nov. 13 at Seattle's St. James Cathedral with a reception that followed at Broadmoor Golf Club.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Rosemary and Richard Peterson Nursing Excellence Fund via the Swedish Foundation or the Archbishop Hunthausen Foundation for the Homeless via St. James Cathedral.

The Seattle Times published a feature obituary about Richard Peterson in the Nov. 10 issue. And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a feature obituary about him on Nov. 15.

To view a full-page tribute ad to Richard that ran in the Nov. 14 issues of The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, click here.

In honor of the many significant contributions he made to the medical center during his tenure at Swedish, here is a summary of his work and accomplishments:

When Richard H. Peterson took the helm as president and CEO of Swedish in 1995, he could not have arrived at a bleaker time.

It was the era of health-care reform, and Swedish was recuperating from a series of blows: its first financial losses in history, hundreds of lay offs, and a bitter, very public labor dispute with the union representing its nurses. Swedish was even on the verge of merging into Tacoma-based Multicare Health System.

The merger, of course, never came to be because, upon his arrival, Peterson and the Board of Trustees made a decision to call it off and, instead, focus on turning Swedish around. That’s exactly what Peterson did, and within a short time, the institution was back on solid ground.

The rest, as they say, is history, with the organization growing and expanding for another decade.

Peterson, who retired from Swedish in March 2007, passed away in his sleep on Nov. 7 at age 66.

A period of growth

Peterson left Swedish with many accomplishments behind him. He presided over a period of tremendous growth that included the construction of the 11-story East Tower on the First Hill campus, the addition of Providence Seattle Medical Center to the Swedish system in 2000 and the opening of a freestanding Emergency Room and Specialty Center in Issaquah in 2005.

He also pushed to redefine Swedish as a collection of core specialty services, rather than the traditional collection of hospitals. What emerged were dedicated centers of excellence, such as the construction of the Swedish Cancer Institute on First Hill in 2001 and, more recently, the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute and the Swedish Neuroscience Institute on the Providence campus and the Swedish Orthopedic Institute on First Hill.

The pursuit of quality

A passionate advocate for quality throughout his career, Peterson made it a major focus at Swedish. The organization’s quality-improvement work has been recognized with several prestigious honors, including of the Leadership Level of the Washington State Quality Award, the Codman Award for excellence in stroke care and the 2007 Health Grades Award. Additionally, for nine years, local consumers have named Swedish the hospital with the best overall quality according to an annual survey done by the National Research Corp.

He was also a supporter of continuous learning and improvement and made ongoing education and training part of the culture at Swedish. One of his lasting legacies will be the creation of a dedicated education and conference center on the Providence campus that will help managers, staff and physicians at Swedish develop and learn new skills.

Serving the community

Another one of his passions was the issue of access to emergency health care and a commitment to serving the uninsured in the community. Under his leadership the level of charity care provided by Swedish grew from $5 million per year when he started to more than $11 million per year at the end of his tenure. He was also proud that the annual Celebrate Swedish gala went from raising $300,000 per year for charity care to more than $1 million per year during his tenure.


Amidst the competitive environment of health-care, Peterson sought ways to collaborate with others whenever possible. Through partnerships with community hospitals – such as Northwest, Stevens, Valley and Highline – Swedish made its cancer- and heart-care services available in local communities.

Likewise, Peterson found innovative ways to partner with physicians. Swedish became the first to develop hospital-physician joint ventures on services such as medical imaging.

He also formed a productive relationship with the labor unions at Swedish and, under his leadership, three nursing contracts were successfully negotiated.

A solid foundation

During his tenure, Peterson assembled a senior leadership team to operate and develop different aspects of the organization. His administration will be remembered for working tirelessly on many fronts, with the ultimate goals of making Swedish the best place to receive care, and the best place to work and practice medicine.

He will be deeply missed by everyone at Swedish.


Biographical Information

  • Name: Richard H. Peterson
  • Age: 66
  • Role: President and CEO
  • Tenure at Swedish: 1995-2007
  • Previous experience: President and CEO of Fairview Riverside Hospital in Minneapolis


  • January 1995 – Peterson takes office
  • February 1996 – Lobby & main entrance open on Broadway
  • January 1997 – Women & Infants Center opens on First Hill Campus
  • April 1998 – Swedish rolls out mission-vision-values statement
  • April 1998 – Construction begins on East Tower on First Hill Campus
  • July 2000 – Providence Seattle Medical Center (now Cherry Hill Campus) joins the Swedish system
  • January 2002 – Swedish Cancer Institute celebrates grand opening
  • March 2005 – $20 million Emergency Department and Specialty Center opens in Issaquah, with imaging services provided through a joint venture with Radia Imaging
  • September 2005 – Swedish receives the Leadership Level of the Washington State Quality Award
  • September 2005 – Swedish prepares to implement clinical information system
  • October 2005 -- Construction begins on $30 million Swedish Neuroscience Institute at Swedish/Cherry Hill
  • November 2005 – Swedish receives Earnest A. Codman Award for stroke care
  • January 2006 – PET/CT Imaging Center opens as a Swedish joint venture with Seattle Nuclear Medicine and Tumor Institute Radiation Oncology Group
  • January 2006 – Swedish launches its first TV ad campaign, “Living the Oath”
  • September 2006 – Swedish receives Health Grades Award
  • October 2006 –Peterson and wife, Rosemary, presented with Lifetime Achievement Award
  • November 2006 – Seattle Heart & Vascular Institute celebrates grand opening at Swedish/Cherry Hill
  • November 2006 – Swedish becomes a smoke-free facility
  • January 2007 – Swedish Orthopedic Institute celebrates groundbreaking on First Hill Campus
  • March 2007 – Education center opens at Cherry Hill Campus
  • March 2007 – Peterson retires

Swedish During Peterson's Tenure


  • Charity care: $5 million
  • Funds raised for Swedish: $4.8 million
  • Revenue base: $330,000
  • Licensed beds: 860


  • Charity care: $12 million
  • Funds raised for Swedish: $11.1 million
  • Revenue base: $1 billion
  • Licensed beds: 1,245



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