North Carolina hospital executives, public health leaders and researchers gained prominence amid the pandemic. Industry consolidation has also increased the influence of health care systems that are the biggest employers in many of the state’s largest communities, including Asheville, Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Hospitals and related organizations support more than 400,000 jobs in the state, according to industry statistics.
president, CEO | Novant Health
Armato, 57, heads a health system that employs 30,000 people and operates hospitals in four states. He joined Novant in 2008 and became CEO in 2012. Armato is a CPA and holds degrees from Norwich University in Vermont and Southwestern Louisiana University.
Pre-workday motivation: Over breakfast or while walking my dog, Ace, I think about how I can help someone that day. This stems from my father and his compassion for others. He always asked the Lord to send him someone to help each day. And I take time to reflect on how great it is to work with such a remarkable team. I think of all the good we’re doing within our communities.
Key to industry success: As a leader, you must be completely committed to your teams and be innovative in your thinking and actions, ensuring your strategies and solutions benefit patients and team members.
Proud family accomplishment: I’m proud to have been married to my amazing wife, Christi, for 34 years. I could not be the man I am today without her continuous love and support. I also am incredibly proud of the adults that my children have become and how they live their lives. Their successes bring me more happiness than mine ever has.
Favorite hobby: I live on a farm, so there’s always something to do. I own horses and chickens and even feed deer on my property. I get a lot of joy being outside with my animals.
executive vice president and CEO |
North Carolina Medical Society
A former lobbyist, Baggett ensures the collective voice of 10,000 doctors and medical professionals is heard by state lawmakers. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University and North Carolina Central University School of Law.
professor of epidemiology |
UNC Chapel Hill
Elected to the National Academy of Sciences last year, Baric, 68, is a globally known expert on coronaviruses. His research predated the COVID-19 pandemic by more than half a decade. He has bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from N.C. State University.
CEO | UNC Health
dean | UNC School of Medicine
Burks, 67, joined UNC Health in 2011 as chair of the department of pediatrics. In 2019, he was named CEO of the system, which has 11 hospitals and 30,000 plus employees. The graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences previously worked at Duke Medical Center for eight years.
Pre-workday motivation: Ensuring we are supporting our teammates, who have been working tirelessly these last two years and under so much stress, both personally and professionally.
Key to industry success: Health care was in the midst of big changes before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has only accelerated the pace of change. Our patients are expecting — and deserve — a more personalized and less transactional experience. They expect options for care that fit their needs and their schedules, so we have to be able to deliver on that, whether that’s virtual, in the patient’s home or in the hospital. Finally, we need to continue to be creative and innovative as we work to expand access and achieve health equity.
Best advice: Have a big vision, or what some people call a BHAG — big, hairy, audacious goal — and lead with it.
Three people to share a meal: Peter Drucker, James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
Proud family accomplishment: Our three granddaughters and one grandson.
Favorite hobby: Exercising daily and playing different sports, mostly golf. I also love to read, primarily history, biographies and mysteries.
Where to entertain a visitor: The Carolina Basketball Museum on the UNC Chapel Hill campus.
chief medical officer | Wake County
medical director | Wake County EMS
The graduate of the University of Puerto Rico Medical School and UNC Chapel Hill was named director of the system in 2015. He added the chief medical officer title last year. He’s a clinical scholar of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
MARY JO CAGLE
CEO | Cone Health
Greensboro’s 13,000-employee health care system welcomed its first physician and female CEO about the same time its merger with Virginia’s Sentara Healthcare fell through in June 2021. The University of Alabama graduate, who was Cone’s COO, succeeded Terry Akin.
Pre-workday motivation: Prayer gets me centered and connected to my purpose and source.
Key to industry success: Your people and having a clear vision for the future and focusing all your efforts and resources to get there.
Best advice: To be an effective leader, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Three people to share a meal: Amelia Earhart, Sandra Day O’Connor and Marie Curie.
Proud family accomplishment: We still enjoy vacationing together and sitting around the table together for food and conversation.
Favorite hobby: Travel.
Where to entertain a visitor: The farmers market.
CEO | OrthoCarolina
Cohen leads one of the nation’s largest independent orthopedic networks — more than 300 providers and 1 million annual patient visits. The foot and ankle surgeon joined OrthoCarolina at its founding in 2005. He’s a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Medical College of Georgia.
CEO | EmergeOrtho
Six years after merging four of the state’s top orthopedic practices, EmergeOrtho has grown to 45 outpatient offices in more than 20 counties. The UNC Chapel Hill graduate took her post last year after joining the group in 2013. Previously, she was a senior manager for a convenience store company.
CEO | FirstHealth of the Carolinas
Under Foster’s leadership, the four-hospital system, whose 5,300 employees care for patients in 15 counties, has consistently ranked high in health care quality ratings from Healthgrades and other groups. A former hospital president for Cone Health, he has a community health degree from East Carolina University and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University.
Pre-workday motivation: A quality workout early in the morning helps get me moving and motivated.
Key to industry success: Surround yourself with great people who are better than you, and make sure to have great mentors throughout your career.
Best advice: The golden rule — treat others the way you would want to be treated.
Three people to share a meal: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Warren Buffett.
Proud family accomplishment: I’m proud of my daughter, Ally, who is an ECU junior. She’s a third-generation Pirate.
Favorite hobby: I enjoy golfing. It’s almost a requirement to live in Pinehurst, though I wish I was better at it. I also enjoy attending ECU football games. It gives me a few hours to escape from being a health system CEO.
Where to entertain a visitor: Dinner and drinks on Pinehurst Country Club’s veranda, watching golfers finish the final hole on legendary Pinehurst No. 2.
CEO | Atrium Health Wake Forest
dean | Wake Forest University
School of Medicine
chief academic officer | Atrium
The nationally known vascular surgeon assumed the Atrium role when it combined with Wake Forest Baptist in 2020. Elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2015, she earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois and a medical degree from Rush University.
Pre-workday motivation: Five minutes of meditation and a few moments to think of all that I am thankful for and the day ahead.
Key to industry success: Dedication and teamwork have always been essential, but the past two years have shown how important it is to be flexible, resilient and innovative, too. Our team has been amazing.
Best advice: Be open-minded, but never take ‘no’ for an answer when you know you are right.
Three people to share a meal: Kamala Harris, Adele and Meryl Streep.
Proud family accomplishment: They are happy, hardworking and always there for each other.
Favorite hobby: Crafting — sewing clothes for my grandkids, making holiday ornaments and painting. I also like to swim and take walks with my husband, Phil.
president, CEO | WakeMed Health
WakeMed has flourished under Gintzig’s leadership for 11 years. It has cared for more COVID-19 patients than any other Triangle hospital, a tribute to its safety net mission. A retired Navy rear admiral, Gintzig, 63, has served as CEO for several not-for-profit, faith-based and for-profit health systems nationwide. He is a George Washington University graduate.
Pre-workday motivation: The opportunity to lead and support an amazing team dedicated to improving the lives of our community’s residents.
Best advice: "Never mistake kindness for weakness." — my Dad.
Three people to share a meal: Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King and my Dad.
Favorite hobby: Time with family at the beach, golf with friends and a bourbon.
Where to entertain a visitor: The diverse people, restaurants and places that showcase the kindness that permeates this community.
CEO | North Carolina Nurses
Gordon represents more than 100,000 nurses who have felt the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, she led external relations for N.C. Association of Realtors and was a communications assistant in the N.C. General Assembly. She holds degrees from Duke and N.C. State universities.
president, CEO | North Carolina
Lawler, who previously worked at Vidant Health and Carolinas Health Care System, has led the association since 2017. He helps more than 130 members navigate troublesome topics such as access and racial inequities. The Citadel graduate has an MBA from Georgia Southern University
Pre-workday motivation: We have the opportunity to impact health care for all North Carolinians.
Key to industry success: Amazing people. Health care people are passionate about caring for others and improving the health of people and communities.
Best advice: Say ‘yes,’ then make a difference.
Three people to share a meal: Albert Schweitzer, Nelson Mandela and Theodore Roosevelt.
Proud family accomplishment: Laura and I have great kids. They are smart, funny, immensely talented and just good people.
Favorite hobby: Exploring and traveling, enjoying different places and different people.
Where to entertain a visitor: Local family-owned restaurants, such as B’s BBQ in Greenville.
CEO | Cape Fear Valley Health
Nagowski leads a system with eight hospitals and annual revenue topping $1 billion. A $110 million expansion is underway at its flagship medical center in Fayetteville. A Park College and Saint Bonaventure graduate, he is an associate professor in the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Key to industry success: Collaboration at the individual patient care level all the way up to strategic planning for organizations. Teamwork is no longer a luxury. Our industry is too complex to rely on an individual-only approach.
Best advice: Work in a field that you enjoy and where you feel like you can make a difference.
Proud family accomplishment: Our family’s closeness. We’re always there for each other, and our best times are when we are together.
Where to entertain a visitor: Our downtown is beautiful. Our parks, museums and cultural attractions make living here enriching.
CEO | Tryon Medical Partners
The independent physician-owned practice formed in 2018 has about 100 doctors caring for about 150,000 patients using an approach that Owen says improves care and cuts costs. Owen, 62, has degrees from UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Pre-workday motivation: Anticipating the opportunities that will present themselves each day to change the health care landscape.
Key to industry success: Prioritizing the patient’s needs in all circumstances.
Best advice: Know your heart, and follow your passion.
Three people to share a meal: Abraham Lincoln, Michelangelo and Teddy Roosevelt.
Favorite hobby: Any kind of boating.
CEO | Mission Health
The former CEO of HCA Healthcare’s Orange Park Medical Center in Florida, Patrick took the top spot at Mission Health in 2019, the same year HCA purchased it for $1.5 billion. He has a master’s from University of Central Florida and bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University.
Pre-workday motivation: My mother was a nurse, so when I started as a respiratory therapist, I can remember how intrigued I was with watching the shift changes and the outpatient and ambulatory centers opening for the day. That experience is what drew me to administration. I like the potential and, frankly, the collaboration required to get all these different departments to work together.
Key to industry success: Building relationships and trust. The moments that mean the most in my career are those I've been able to share with my management teams, colleagues, and communities. I really enjoy what I do.
Best advice: HCA Healthcare is where I began my career, and I am incredibly thankful they gave me a shot at such an early age. I can remember just a few months into my first CEO position, one of the leading executives said, "belief in self and your team is what will drive the greater good." I've had some moments in my career when I lost some confidence in myself. It's easy in health care to become overly concerned with making everyone at the table feel heard, and it's not easy to deliver difficult news. However, my path has provided the opportunity to be surrounded by incredible mentors, colleagues, and exceptional physicians, many of whom worked in the military sector.
Three people to share a meal: Terry Bradshaw, Sam Snead and my dad.
Proud family accomplishment: I have a great wife, Carrie. We both are highly driven people, and having someone around you that wants you to be the most successful version of yourself makes me incredibly grateful and grounded.
Favorite hobby: I love to travel. As I'm getting older, I realize I've missed a lot of the world around me, so traveling is something that makes me very happy.
Where to entertain a visitor: We moved to Asheville shortly before COVID, so my wife and I haven't had as many opportunities to enjoy much of the city. But, anytime we can get in the car, just us or with company, through the Blue Ridge Parkway for a long drive through the mountains, I'm happy.
president, CEO | CaroMont Health
The Gaston county native has helped 4,400-employee CaroMont remain independent with a hospital under construction in Belmont and expansion at its main Gastonia campus. Peek, 51, holds degrees from Gaston College, UNC Charlotte and Amberton University.
Pre-workday motivation: The pride and privilege of working with a team of dedicated people focused on a goal bigger than ourselves. Every day, we get the opportunity to deliver upon an inspiring mission to care for our community.
Key to industry success: Success can only be achieved through an unwavering commitment to meeting the needs of the patient. Outcomes are at the core of what we do, and all decisions must align with what is best for those who trust us to care for them.
Proud family accomplishment: Growing up, my family had limited means. But love, faith, integrity and work ethic were abundant in our home. Those qualities and values still serve as the foundation for how I engage and interact with others.
Where to entertain a visitor: CaroMont Health Park in Gastonia.
CEO | ECU Health
dean | ECU Brody School of Medicine
Waldrum, 60, is overseeing a joint operating agreement between the 29-county, 12,000-employee system he has led since 2015 and state-owned medical school. He has a medical degree from University of Alabama and a University of Michigan MBA.
Pre-workday motivation: Coffee, a workout and planning to work with others to solve complex problems.
Key to industry success: Providing excellent service and driving value to improve quality and decrease costs.
Best advice: Pause between stimulus and response.
Three people to share a meal: Jon Meacham, Victor Frankl and Winston Churchill.
Proud family accomplishment: With four kids and five grandkids, there is so much to be proud of. They all are grounded, work hard, and love life and each other.
Favorite hobby: Golf.
Where to entertain a visitor: The waterfront for a walk along the river, then a meal downtown.
A. EUGENE WASHINGTON
president, CEO | Duke University
Washington, 71, is a nationally known researcher in women’s health policy. He is a graduate of Howard University and University of California at San Francisco. Before moving to North Carolina in 2015, he led the UCLA Health System.
president | Cape Fear Valley Hoke
Wells has held several positions at the Fayetteville-based health care system, including chief medical officer, then president of its Raeford and Bladen County hospitals. She has degrees from Fayetteville State University and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.
professor | UNC School of Medicine
Wohl researches viral infections, such as HIV, and is an expert in viral fevers such as Ebola. A 1991 graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, he did his residency at Duke University Medical Center. He was a key media source amid the pandemic.
president, CEO | Atrium Health
Woods, 57, has attracted national attention as the 70,000-employee health care system’s leader since 2016. The Penn State University graduate is working on a medical school and innovation campus in Charlotte tied to Wake Forest University.
Pre-workday motivation: I try to get up before 5 a.m. and start my day with a high-intensity interval training workout. Afterward, I love to do some reading. I’m currently enjoying “Leadership: In Turbulent Times’’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Then I grab a cup of coffee and set my intentions and goals for the day.
Key to industry success: We have millions of patient interactions every year. So, success is found in making each and every patient feel special as we work to extend the care that we provide outside of our hospital walls and deep into the communities that we serve. That’s at the core of Atrium’s mission: improve health, elevate hope and advance healing for all.
Best advice: Never be outworked by anyone. Always keep your “why” at the top of mind. Be the type of leader you want to be led by.
Three people to share a meal: Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill and Bob Marley.
Proud family accomplishment: While both of my grandfathers didn’t graduate from high school and my late father — a veteran — never went to college, education was always the top priority for my family. That emphasis led me to become my family’s first college graduate.
Favorite hobby: Playing guitar.
Where to entertain a visitor: Our new innovation district, recently named The Pearl in honor of the part of Charlotte formerly known as Brooklyn. It was where thriving African-American businesses, faith communities and families lived, worked and played prior to urban renewal in the 1950s. Soon, The Pearl will be ground zero for research, education and development.
president | Community Care of
The practicing family doctor has cared for patients in Alamance and Caswell counties for two decades. The not-forprofit organization has 3,000 primary care physicians in 900-plus practices. A graduate of Columbia University’s medical school, he previously was on UNC Chapel Hill’s family medicine faculty.