Children’s Executive Leadership Team

Bob Bonar, CEO, headshot

Robert (Bob) I. Bonar, Jr., Dr. H.A.
Chief executive officer

Bob Bonar was appointed CEO of Children’s Minnesota in December 2014. With hospitals in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, Children’s Minnesota is one of the largest pediatric hospital systems in the country, and serves children throughout the upper Midwest.

Throughout his career, Mr. Bonar has been focused on improving quality outcomes, establishing strategic partnerships within the community and furthering access to pediatric care for people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Prior to Children’s, Mr. Bonar served as president and CEO of Seton Family of Hospitals and CEO of Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. He also held senior leadership roles at pediatric health systems in Oklahoma, Virginia and South Carolina, and served in instructional roles at several university medical centers across the country.

Mr. Bonar holds a doctorate in health administration and policy from the Medical University of South Carolina, earned master’s degrees in administrative disciplines from West Virginia University and the University of Oklahoma and also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from West Virginia University.

Maria Christu

Maria C. Christu, JD
Chief legal officer, Vice president advocacy and health policy

Maria Christu joined Children’s as its first general counsel in 2003. Prior to joining Children’s Ms. Christu spent nine years as an associate general counsel at UnitedHealth Group in Minnetonka, where her work included legal support for United’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. Maria began her career in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, serving as counsel for the medical and nursing licensing boards as well as the Minnesota Department of Health. Ms. Christu is active in the community serving as past chair of the board of directors of Way to Grow and as a member of the board of directors for Children’s Law Center and the Minnesota Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund. In 2013, Ms. Christu was recognized as a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Women in Business honoree.

Roxanne Fernandes, headshot

Roxanne Fernandes, RN, MHA
Chief nursing officer

Roxanne Fernandes joined Children’s Minnesota as chief nursing officer in May 2011. With a commitment to ensuring high-quality, safe patient care, Ms. Fernandes has helped Children’s build a unified nursing management team and further elevated education, training, accountability and patient advocacy among nurses.

Ms. Fernandes has more than 30 years of experience in pediatrics, both at the bedside and in executive roles, and most recently served as executive director at the University of California, San Francisco. During her time in California, Ms. Fernandes was named one of the top 100 Influential Women in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times for five consecutive years.

Ms. Fernandes previously served on the Board of Trustees for the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI). She currently serves on the Education Committee for the Children’s Hospital Association. She holds a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from San Jose State University.

Bjorn Gunnerud, headshot

Bjorn Gunnerud
Vice president of marketing and communications

Bjorn Gunnerud is vice president of marketing and communications, and joined the organization in 2010. Prior, he was vice president of marketing at MinuteClinic, the largest provider of retail health care in the country and a subsidiary of CVS Pharmacy. He’s also held leadership positions in several top advertising agencies managing brands including BMW, Georgia-Pacific and Citibank. Mr. Gunnerud received a bachelor of arts from Saint Olaf College.

Samantha Hanson, headshot

Samantha Hanson
Chief human resources officer

Samantha Hanson joined Children’s as chief human resources officer in May 2014. Ms. Hanson brings more than 15 years of diverse leadership experience in positively transforming companies and their cultures. Most recently, she served as the senior vice president of human capital at OptumInsight, where she oversaw four market groups – provider, payer, government and life services. She was also instrumental in building the culture at Ingenix, the health information technology subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group that would later become OptumInsight. Prior to Optum/Ingenix, Ms. Hanson held executive leadership positions for Verifications, Taleo/Vurv Technology, and Best Buy. Ms. Hanson holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota.

Phil Kibort, headshot

Phillip Kibort, MD, MBA
Vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer

Dr. Phillip Kibort became vice president system advancement at Children’s in 1996, and he became chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs in 2002. Dr. Kibort was a pediatric gastroenterologist at Minnesota Gastroenterology from 1982 to1994. He has written and published on issues of management and quality in health care, and teaches on medical quality to healthcare professionals at the University of St. Thomas in the Twin Cities. He is a member of the American College of Physician Executives and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Kibort has served on the boards of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Way to Grow and Memorial Blood Center. He was president of Temple of Aaron from 2003-2005.

Jennifer Olson

Jennifer Olson, MBA
Vice president, strategy and business development

Jennifer Olson is vice president, strategy and business development for Children’s Minnesota.  In this role, Jennifer oversees strategic planning, partnerships (clinical, business, community, academic), innovation, and organizational planning, including development of clinical institutes.  Prior to this role, Jennifer was the vice president of operations for The Mother Baby Center Clinical Service Line for Allina Hospitals and Children’s Minnesota.  Jennifer has been with Children’s since 2001, and prior to Children’s focused on healthcare strategy with Deloitte Consulting.  Jennifer holds a MBA with a focus on Healthcare Operations from the University of WI – Madison, and a bachelor’s in Finance, also from the University of WI Madison.  Jennifer is engaged with several non-profits, most notably as the chair of the programs/services committee for the MN Chapter Board of the March of Dimes.

Theresa Pesch headshot

Theresa Pesch, RN
President, Children’s Foundation

Theresa Pesch joined Children’s in February 2007 and leads the team that launched and successfully completed the $150 million Next Generation of Care fundraising campaign, the largest capital campaign in the organization’s history. By raising community support to unprecedented levels, Children’s fundraising has increased seven-fold under Ms. Pesch’s leadership, which has provided the organization with resources for innovation as well as substantial facility and technological improvements.

Originally trained in nursing, Ms. Pesch has 25 years of healthcare administration experience and is a sought after presenter for national philanthropy conferences. Additionally, Ms. Pesch has provided leadership roles for numerous boards and currently serves on the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST. She was recognized as a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Women in Business honoree and is a member of Women Business Leaders in Health Care and Women Presidents’ Organization, Inc. She also serves as a faculty member of Kaiser’s Philanthropy Innovations Institute and the AHP Madison Institute.

Trevor Sawallish Chief Ambulatory Officer

Trevor Sawallish
Chief ambulatory officer and interim chief operating officer

Trevor Sawallish is the Chief Ambulatory Officer for Children’s Minnesota with responsibility for the operations and development of the specialty and primary care clinic system. Trevor brings 18 years of experience working in ambulatory and integrated healthcare environments and has a passion for driving the transparency and value of healthcare through technology, improvement systems and aligned incentives. Prior to joining Children’s in 2015, Trevor worked at his own healthcare operations and IT consulting firm, was the vice president of operations for Dean Clinic, an integrated delivery network in Madison, WI, and served in various healthcare information technology leadership roles. Trevor holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Carol Wilcox, Sr. Administrator

Carol Wilcox, RN, MS
Vice President, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Services

Carol joined Children’s Minnesota in 2008 and has system responsibility for our Lab, Pharmacy and Radiology services as well as executive responsibility for the St. Paul campus. Carol has over 30 years experience in a variety of health care leadership roles in both care delivery and health plan organizations. Carol holds a Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Saint Catherine.
Jeffrey Young, headshot

Jeffrey Young
Chief information officer

Jeffrey Young joined Children’s in March of 2009 as chief information officer. He is responsible for the strategic direction and technical support of all information systems supporting hospitals and clinics. He also provides leadership for the Health Information Management department, which maintains the confidentiality, quality and timeliness of medical records and health information. Prior to joining Children’s, Mr. Young spent 17 years at Express Scripts, a large national pharmacy benefit management company, serving in various leadership positions. Mr. Young holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Wisconsin.