Cleveland Clinic CEO Delos "Toby" Cosgrove Saturday withdrew his name from consideration to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"This has been an extraordinarily difficult decision, but I have decided to withdraw from consideration (for) this position and remain at the Cleveland Clinic due to the commitment I have made to the organization, our patients and the work that still needs to be done here," Cosgrove said in the statement.
The New York Times said the White House approached Cosgrove, a heart surgeon who served in the Air Force in Vietnam and won both a Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal, to replace Eric Shinseki, who resigned last month as VA secretary following revelation of secret waiting lists.
Reports indicated 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waited an average 115 days for an appointment. Similar reports have surfaced from other VA facilities.
"We are finding that inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic problem nationwide," an interim report by Acting Inspector General Richard J. Griffin said.
Cosgrove, 73, has been head of the Cleveland Clinic, which is often cited for its quality of service and responsiveness to patient needs, since 2004.
"I am humbled and honored to have been considered for the opportunity to help veterans across the United States," the Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted Cosgrove as saying. "This is an enormous responsibility and one that deserved careful thought and consideration.
"As a physician, veteran, and hospital chief executive, I have great respect for the care provided to the veteran community and for those who work to care for them."
The White House declined to comment on reports President Barack Obama had called Cosgrove May 30, the same day he accepted Shinseki's resignation, to approach him about the job.