Woman's Hospital President/CEO Teri Fontenot speaks during a press conference to introduce the GRACE Program, which will provide care coordination services to expectant mothers struggling with opioid use disorder during pregnancy, Tuesday, September 11, 2018, at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.

Teri Fontenot, who has led Woman's Hospital as president and CEO for more than two decades, will retire later this year. 

Since Fontenot began running the hospital in 1996, Woman's has become the largest birthing hospital and neonatal intensive care unit in Louisiana, the hospital said. Fontenot also oversaw a move to Woman's $340 million replacement campus on Airline Highway, which opened in 2012. 

Fontenot said she's most proud of the role Woman's played in the recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina, when the hospital took in 122 infants from NICUs in five flooded New Orleans hospitals. The hospital cared for the infants and helped relocate them to places as far away as Oklahoma, she said. 

"It was so hard to describe how difficult it was because there was no infrastructure in place," she said. "It was the most authentic expression of our mission to improve the health of women and infants." 

More recently, Fontenot helped strike a partnership with Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center to open the region's only specialized breast and gynecologic center facility under one roof. 

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Fontenot will stay on until the hospital's board of directors finds a replacement, which will likely be late summer at the earliest. The board has hired Korn Ferry, a national search firm, to find a new CEO. 

"Under Teri’s direction, Woman’s has not only remained steadfast in its mission to improve the health of women and infants, but has strengthened its role in the community through expanded services and strategic partnerships," Woman's Hospital Foundation Board Chair Renee Harris said in a statement. 

Woman's Hospital tapped Fontenot as president and CEO in 1996, promoting her from the No. 2 job at the hospital. She began talks with the board about retiring in 2016, she said in an email to employees, but wanted to stay on until major projects were completed, especially establishing a partnership in the women's cancer service line and getting the new Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion running. 

"Woman’s is in a position of strength and I’m confident that it will continue to be a national leader in women’s and infants’ health," Fontenot said in a statement. "We are financially strong, have an excellent reputation, and our care is highly sought out by patients and physicians both locally and regionally." 

Fontenot began working at Woman's in 1992 as senior vice president and chief financial officer, and became executive vice president and chief operating officer the following year. In 1994, she was named executive vice president of the hospital's parent, Woman's Health Foundation, before ascending to the top role.

She said she plans to continue serving on several boards, as well as spend time with her two young grandsons and travel in retirement.

Follow Sam Karlin on Twitter, @samkarlin.