Panel Session:Walking the Tightrope: Balancing the Clinical and Financial ROI of AI

J. Kevin Croston

J. Kevin Croston, MD

CEO - North Memorial Health

J. Kevin Croston, MD is the chief executive officer (CEO) of North Memorial Health.  Dr Croston is in his fifth year as CEO and has been with the health system since 1993 where he started at the Robbinsdale campus as surgical director of trauma, which under Dr Croston, became a Level 1 Trauma Center in 1998.  During Dr Croston’s tenure as CEO, the system successfully launched a rebranding campaign that transformed its image to reflect North Memorial Health’s role in the community as a comprehensive health system featuring two hospitals, 27 ambulatory clinics, 130 ambulances, and 9 helicopters covering the entire state of Minnesota and western Wisconsin.  In addition, under Dr Croston’s leadership, the system has ‘right-sized’ it’s operations, and has created a culture of outstanding customer service, which has helped the organization achieve financial stability. 

Dr Croston served as chairman of the Minnesota State Trauma Advisory Committee from 2005-2010 and was pivotal in developing a formal state-wide trauma system.  He has served and continues to serve on numerous national and community Boards including the Board of Trustees for North Memorial Health from 2007 until becoming the President of Physician Services and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in 2010.  He is currently the chairman of the board for Maple Grove Hospital.

A board-certified general surgeon and fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Croston studied at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and completed his surgical residency at the Hennepin County Medical Center.  He continues in his surgical practice at North Memorial Health, in collaboration with Specialists in General Surgery, Ltd. and has been named one of the regions’ “Top Doctors” through a survey of doctors and nurses conducted by Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine every year since 2006.  Dr Croston was also the voice of “The Good Doctor” a weekly radio medical spot that aired on five stations locally for over two years. 


Craig Samitt

Craig E. Samitt, MD, MBA

President and CEO - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Craig E. Samitt serves as president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and its parent company, Stella. He is responsible for overseeing the strategy and operations of the state’s first and largest health plan, serving nearly three million members.

Dr. Samitt has more than 20 years of experience building, growing, and leading large health plan organizations. Prior to joining Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in July 2018, he held senior leadership positions at Anthem, Inc., HealthCare Partners, and Dean Health System Inc.

Dr. Samitt holds an undergraduate degree from Tufts University, a medical degree from Columbia University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.

Penny Wheeler

Penny Wheeler, MD

President and CEO - Allina Health

Penny Wheeler, MD, is the president and chief executive officer of Allina Health. Prior to her appointment as CEO, she served as the chief clinical officer of Allina Health, responsible for leading the organization's quality and value agenda through alignment of the clinical and operational leadership to optimally benefit those served by Allina Health. A board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Wheeler served patients at Women's Health Consultants in Minneapolis, was the president of Abbott Northwestern Hospital's medical staff, chaired the Allina Health Quality Committee and served on the Allina Health Board of Directors.

In addition to her current role, Dr. Wheeler chaired the Minnesota Community Measurement board, a regional health quality collaborative, and is on the board of Portico Healthnet, an organization dedicated to helping uninsured Minnesotans receive affordable health coverage and care. She has presented nationally on Allina Health’s approach and success in quality advancement and outcomes-based quality payment models. Dr. Wheeler was named the 2012 Outstanding Health Care Executive, largely based on her ability to form internal and external care collaboratives and their impact on community health.

Her educational background includes an undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Minnesota, and a doctorate of medicine degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School.


Jakub Tolar

Moderator: Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD

Dean of the Medical School, Vice President of Clinical Affairs - University of Minnesota

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, is the dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School, a Distinguished McKnight Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and the vice president for clinical affairs at the University of Minnesota. He is also the board chair for University of Minnesota Physicians and co-leader of M Health Fairview, the Joint Clinical Enterprise between the University of Minnesota Medical School, University of Minnesota Physicians, and Fairview Health Services. Dr. Tolar is active in many professional societies and is a strong advocate for cooperation and communication within the clinical and research communities. He has a clinical practice through the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, and his interests include educating and mentoring new physicians.