Children’s Executive Leadership Team

Bob Bonar, CEO, headshot

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

Bob Bonar was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Minnesota in December 2014. Before joining Children’s, he served as CEO of Seton Family of Hospitals and CEO of Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, based in Austin. Prior to Seton and Dell Children’s, Dr. Bonar served as CEO at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughter’s Health System in Norfolk, Virginia, and at the Children’s Hospital of Oklahoma (now The Children’s Hospital at Oklahoma University Medical Center) based in Oklahoma City. Dr. Bonar has also held instructional roles at several academic medical centers across the country.

Dr. Bonar holds a doctorate in health administration and policy from the Medical University of South Carolina, and earned master’s degrees in administrative disciplines from West Virginia University and the University of Oklahoma. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from West Virginia University where he also earned his national registry mobile intensive care paramedic license.

Dr. Bonar serves on the Clinical Advisory Board of LifeSource, an organ and tissue donation network. Bob also serves on the national Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) Board of Trustees and as chair of the CHA Quality and Safety Committee. Dr. Bonar is a member of the Minnesota Hospital Association Board of Directors and the Minnesota Business Partnership.

Emily Chapman, CMO Children's Minnesota

Emily Chapman, MD
Chief medical officer, vice president of medical affairs

Emily Chapman, MD, oversees quality and safety, education and research, and supports the Children’s employed and independent clinicians of the Professional Staff.

She continues clinical practice as a pediatric hospitalist in the Children’s Hospital Medicine Program which she led for six years through its development and expansion. Additionally, Dr. Chapman is devoted to Medical Education having served as Associate Director of Medical Education at Children’s and Associate Program Director of the Pediatric Residency Program at the University of Minnesota where she holds an appointment as Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Chapman trained at Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Minnesota. After residency, she practiced general pediatrics as an owner and President of the Wayzata Children’s Clinic outside the Twin Cities.

Dr. Chapman speaks locally and regionally on topics including clinical care, cognitive error, leadership and program development.

Gigi Chawla, Chief of general pediatrics

Gigi Chawla, MD, MHA
Chief of general pediatrics

Gigi Chawla, MD, MHA, is a pediatrician and hospitalist. She has responsibility for the primary care clinics, behavioral health clinics, rehabilitation services, medical/surgical inpatient care and the hospitalist program.

Dr. Chawla received her undergraduate degree in chemistry and biology from St. Olaf College. She attended medical school, completed her pediatric residency training and chief residency, and obtained her master’s degree in health care administration at the University of Minnesota. She was a hospitalist at Boston Children’s Hospital before moving back to join the Children’s St. Paul Clinic in 2001. Her clinical areas of interest are the care of complex special needs patients, premature infants, ventilator-dependent children, and hospitalized patients.

She is often called upon by the media for her pediatric expertise and is a regular contributor for Minnesota Parent’s magazine column and WCCO’s television news segment “Ask the Pediatrician.” Dr. Chawla is also instrumental in advancing the organization’s forward-looking efforts around population health and community engagement. Through internal efforts to better integrate primary care with behavioral health and social support services for families as well as external advocacy, including service on Mayor Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet and Governor Dayton’s Interagency Coordinating Council on Early Childhood Intervention, Dr. Chawla is a champion for Children’s efforts to create an environment for child health that extends beyond the clinic. She’s been consistently named to Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine’s Top Doctors annual list.

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. Additionally, she was featured on Becker’s Hospital Review’s “60 Hospital and Health System CNOs to Know 2017” list.

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.

Ms. Fernandes’ interests include gardening, reading, furniture refinishing and the Oakland Raiders.

Marc Gorelick, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer, Children's Minnesota

Marc Gorelick, MD
President and Chief Operating Officer, Children’s Minnesota

Marc Gorelick joined Children’s in March 2017. He is deeply committed to identifying sustainable ways Children’s can continue to deliver exceptional care in an evolving health care environment.

Dr. Gorelick previously served as Executive Vice President and COO of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.  A pediatric emergency medicine physician by training, his prior experience includes faculty positions at Medical College of Wisconsin and University of Pennsylvania, and clinical and leadership roles at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, AI DuPont Hospital for Children, and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

His education includes an A.B. degree in history from Princeton University, an M.D. degree from Duke University, and a Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Gorelick trained in pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center, and in pediatric emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Gorelick’s interests include running, cycling, and paddling; homebrewing; and playing the tuba.

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.

Anupam Kharbanda, MD, Chief of critical care services

Anupam Kharbanda, MD
Chief of critical care services

Anupam Kharbanda, MD, is a pediatric emergency medicine physician. He currently has overall responsbility for the care delivered and the quality, safety  and operations for critical care services. This includes the departments of cardiology, emergency medicine, radiology, telehealth, transport services and our intensive care units (Neonatal, Pediatric and Cardiac ICU) . He joined Children’s in  2012 as research director for emergency services after serving as an attending physician at Columbia University for five years.

Dr. Kharbanda attended medical school at the University of Iowa and completed his residency training in pediatrics and served as Chief Resident at Columbia University. He completed a fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He also received a Masters in Biostatistics at Columbia University.

Dr. Kharbanda has published numerous articles in the field of pediatric emergency medicine and he is nationally recognized for his work on developing clinical pathways for the management of pediatric appendicitis. He currently leads a federally-funded multi-center study to implement appendicitis care pathways into the HealthPartners and Kaiser Northern California health systems. Additional current research areas include developing and implementing evidenced-based care pathways in order to enhance patient experience, improve quality of care, and to minimize healthcare expenditures. He has written several textbook chapters on topics in emergency medicine including abdominal pain, pediatric appendicitis and pediatric trauma. Dr. Kharbanda is married and has two school-aged children. He is an avid runner and enjoys being outdoors.

Nancy Mendelsohn, MD Chief of specialty pediatrics

Nancy Mendelsohn, MD
Chief of specialty pediatrics

Nancy Mendelsohn, MD, is a senior physician-scientist who joined Children’s Minnesota in 2003. She currently has responsibility for the strategy and development of the multi-specialty physician practice and has accountability for all medical specialty departments, as well as pathology and the pain, palliative care and integrative medicine program.

Dr. Mendelsohn has 25 years of experience as a board-certified medical geneticist and is a national leader in the clinical genetics community. She has served as a public health service pediatrician, and an assistant professor for the Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, at the University of Minnesota, Medical School. She established the genetics service at Hennepin County Medical Center and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Dr. Mendelsohn received an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from Indiana University, an MD from the University of Missouri in 1987, and completed her professional training in pediatrics and fellowship in medical genetics at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri.

Dr. Mendelsohn has more than 50 peer reviewed publications, book chapters and presentations. She has also served broadly on national committees for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Medical Genetics & Genomics (ACMGG), and within Children’s Minnesota. Dr. Mendelsohn has two grown children; she spends her free time cooking and enjoying the outdoors.

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, RN, joined Children’s Minnesota 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 administrative officer

Trevor Sawallish has responsibility for ambulatory services and support operations. Mr. Sawallish brings 20 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 as chief ambulatory officer, Mr. Sawallish 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.

Mr. Sawallish holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Mr. Sawallish’s interests include writing and performing music, snowboarding, and spending time with his two children.

Carol Wilcox, Sr. Administrator

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

Carol Wilcox joined Children’s Minnesota in 2008 and has system responsibility for lab, pharmacy and radiology services, as well as executive responsibility for the St. Paul campus. Ms. Wilcox has more than 35 years of experience in a variety of health care leadership roles in care delivery – both inpatient and ambulatory – and health plan organizations. She has spoken nationally on clinical integration and service line leadership. Ms. Wilcox holds a Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Saint Catherine.

Ms. Wilcox enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her three adult children and two grandchildren, as well as visiting her lake home in central Minnesota.

David J. Schmeling, MD Chief of surgery

David J. Schmeling, MD
Chief of surgery

David J. Schmeling, MD, is a pediatric surgeon with Pediatric Surgical Associates, and is Chief of Surgery at Children’s. Dr. Schmeling is a Minnesota native and University of Minnesota Medical School graduate.   He completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Michigan, and his Pediatric Surgery fellowship training at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He joined Pediatric Surgical Associates and the staff of Children’s in 1992, upon completion of his training.

Dr. Schmeling has authored or co-authored more than 40 journal articles and seven book chapters. He has served on the Pediatric Surgery Board of the American Board of Surgery, as well as the Board of Governors of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. He has also held membership positions in a number of other committees in national organizations, as well as serving as an examiner for the American Board of Surgery Certifying Examination in Pediatric Surgery (“Orals”) for more than 15 years. His areas of surgical interests are newborn surgical anomalies and surgical oncology, in addition to the broad scope of Pediatric General Surgery.

Dr. Schmeling is married with four adult children and five grandchildren added over the past three years. He enjoys travel, time with family and music.

Clark Smith, MD Chief of medicine

Clark Smith, MD
Chief of medicine

Clark Smith, MD, first joined the professional staff at Children’s in 1983, becoming employed in 1995. His current responsibilities are in the professional staff office and over the medical surgical units in St. Paul. He is involved in quality, safety, partnership discussions and further evolution of the employed professional staff practice model.

Dr. Smith started out at the University of Minnesota in hematology oncology and biomedical engineering, publishing over 60 papers. After moving to Children’s he served as the medical director of hematology oncology, overseeing the launch of the service line, integration of the programs on both sides of the river, and partnering with health care systems to establish regional infusion centers. He subsequently served as Chief of Pediatrics for 13 years during Children’s rapid growth and expansion. He remains clinically active in hematology oncology.

Except for a stint in college at UCLA, his entire training and work experience have been in Minnesota at the University and at Children’s Minnesota.

Dr. Smith’s interests include history, philosophy, paddling and boating.

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.