UNC REX North Carolina Heart & Vascular Hospital, Raleigh

Health Care

Hospitals are the biggest employers in most of North Carolina’s largest cities including Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Nearly 400,000 jobs at hospitals and related industries are supported by health systems, according to a 2017 study by the N.C. Healthcare Association. It’s natural, then, that health system leaders rank among the state’s most influential executives. A consolidation wave is boosting the size of the largest organizations.


president, CEO | Novant Health


Armato, 56, joined Novant in 2008 and became CEO in 2012. The University of Southwestern Louisiana graduate earned an MBA from Vermont’s Norwich University. He oversaw the four-state system’s $5.3 billion acquisition of New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington earlier this year.

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CEO | North Carolina Medical Society


Baggett in September became head of the association that represents 10,000 physicians and other medical professionals, succeeding longtime leader Robert Seligson. He joined the group as a legislative representative in 2007. He has a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University and a law degree from N.C. Central University. 


chairman | Atrium Health System


The Georgia Tech graduate was a 32-year Bank of America executive before joining Hendrick Automotive Group in 2010. Named CEO in 2011, he aided owner Rick Hendrick at the $10 billion auto-dealership group before retiring last year. He’s chaired the biggest N.C. health care system for many years, playing a key role in its expansion.


CEO | UNC Health Care

Chapel Hill

The internationally recognized pediatric allergy expert was named CEO of the 11-hospital system in 2018. Burks, 66, came to UNC in 2011 and later was named physician-in-chief at UNC Children’s Hospital and dean of the medical school. He had worked at Duke University for the previous eight years. He’s a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

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incoming regional president | Cone Health


Cagle, 61, joined Cone in 2013 as chief medical officer, becoming chief operating officer and executive vice president in 2018.
She is stepping into the five-hospital system’s
top spot after its merger with Norfolk, Va.-based Sentara Healthcare is approved. The University of Alabama graduate is succeeding Terry Akin, CEO since 2014.

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CEO | OrthoCarolina


Cohen has led the independent orthopedics network since 2016 while also keeping his own practice. It is one of the nation’s largest with 300-plus providers, seeing more than 1 million patients annually. He is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Medical College of Georgia.


president | UNC Health Care Network Hospitals

Chapel Hill

Ellington has been president since 2008 after working for health care systems in four other states. He has an accounting degree from Clemson University and a University of Phoenix MBA. The 14-hospital system signed a contract to manage Southeastern Health in Lumberton in December.


CEO | Pinehurst Medical Clinic


Enfinger, 40, heads Pinehurst Medical Clinic, which has more than 100 doctors and 19 locations in four counties. He has a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a Gardner-Webb University MBA.[

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CEO | FirstHealth of the Carolinas


Foster, 49, is a graduate of East Carolina University and Central Michigan University. He oversees more than 5,000 employees in 15 counties in the mid-Carolinas.

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CEO | Wake Forest Baptist Health


With her titles — CEO, medical school dean, Atrium Health Enterprise chief academic officer — it’s surprising that Freischlag, 66, has time to continue practicing as a top vascular surgeon. A University of Illinois and Rush University graduate, she added responsibilities when Wake and Atrium agreed to partner last year, creating a behemoth with $11 billion in revenue and more than 40 hospitals that serve 7 million people.

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president, CEO | WakeMed Health & Hospitals


Gintzig, 62, landed as WakeMed’s interim chief in 2013 and CEO in 2014. The retired rear admiral and George Washington University graduate took control in rough waters after the previous CEO resigned in a Medicare billing scandal. WakeMed competes effectively against the Duke and UNC hospital systems in Wake County. Annual revenue exceeded expenses by an average $63 million between 2018 and 2020.

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executive vice president, chief business development officer | Novant Health


Gizdic, 51, came to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in 2005 and was named CEO in 2017. He helped negotiate last year’s merger with Novant Health. He has an undergraduate degree from Penn State University and MBA and master’s of health administration from Pfeiffer University.

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CEO | Wilmington Health


A Marine veteran, James has been CEO of the physician-owned multispecialty clinic with 22 sites since 2008. A national speaker on health care finance and accountable care organizations intended to curb medical costs, he holds two degrees from Eastern Illinois University.


president, CEO | North Carolina Healthcare Association


Lawler, 61, has led the hospital industry group since 2017 after serving as a Vidant Health executive and in the U.S. Army’s medical service corps. He is a Citadel graduate with an MBA from Georgia Southern University.

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director | Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy


With degrees from the University of Texas, Harvard University and MIT, McClellan is a health care industry thought leader. He led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 2002 through 2004 then became the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator until 2006. He joined Duke University in 2016.


CEO | Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation


Forefathers founded a Shallotte pharmacy in 1875. McNeill and his brother Ronnie lead a company that includes about 20 nursing homes that employ an estimated 2,500 and offer skilled nursing, rehab, therapy, hospice and other services, plus a pharmacy and medical supply sales business. He is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate. The McNeills invested in Wilmington’s fledgling Pharmaceutical Product Development Corp. in 1989 with founder Fred Eshelman, retaining half interest for many years. In 2011, Eshelman sold PPD to an investment group for nearly $4 billion.


CEO | Cape Fear Valley Health


Nagowski has led the state’s eighth-largest health care system, which has 7,100 employees, since 2008. The not-for-profit’s flagship, which opened in 1956, is Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Cape Fear has nearly doubled its revenue during his tenure. He has a St. Bonaventure University MBA.


CEO | EmergeOrtho-Triangle Region


Overbey was named CEO in 2020, arriving from Proliance Surgeons of Seattle to administer the system’s 18 locations in 10 counties. He got his undergraduate degree at N.C. State University and MBA at Pfeiffer University.


CEO | Tryon Medical Partners


Owen, 61, and 90 other Atrium Health doctors shook up Queen City medicine by forming the region’s biggest private practice with more than 150,000 patients in September 2018. The cardiologist is a UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Medicine graduate.

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president, CEO | CaroMont Health


Peek, 50, grew up in the community served by the system he leads. A Gaston College and UNC Charlotte graduate with an MBA from Amberton University in Texas, he leads one of the state’s largest remaining independent systems with about 4,000 employees and $650 million in annual revenue. His route to CaroMont’s top job in 2017 included stops at a large Salvation Army system and assistant county manager in Mecklenburg County. CaroMont’s quality rankings often top many bigger rivals in Business North Carolina’s annual rankings. It’s working on a $350 million expansion that includes a new hospital in Belmont.

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CEO | U.S. Radiology Specialists


The pandemic cut his company’s revenue sharply early last year before recovering. But the DePauw University graduate, who earned an MBA at Northwestern University, is undeterred. The 3,000-employee business does more than 6 million radiology studies a year. He joined the company in 2018 after serving as CEO of United Kingdom-based Bio Products Laboratory.

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CEO | Vidant Health


Closely tied to East Carolina University and Brody School of Medicine, Vidant’s nine hospitals and 12,000 employees serve a region of more than 1.5 million residents. Waldrum, 59, was named CEO in 2015. He previously was president of the University of Arizona Health Network and spent 17 years as a University of Alabama School of Medicine professor. He has a medical degree from the University of Alabama and a University of Michigan MBA.

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president, CEO | Duke University Health System


Washington arrived in Durham in 2015 after leading the UCLA Health System. A women’s health policy expert, he has a medical degree from the University of California at San Francisco. Duke’s system employs 19,000 and has nearly $4 billion in annual revenue.


managing director | Rex Health Ventures


Watkins, 48, has headed the venture fund affiliated with UNC Rex Healthcare since 2012, helping foster innovation in early- and mid-stage companies in services, information technology and biopharma. She is a graduate of N.C. State University and has master’s and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

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president, CEO | Atrium Health


Woods, 56, has led the 42-hospital system since 2016 and led its combination with Wake Forest Baptist Health to establish Charlotte’s first medical school. The Penn State University graduate chaired the American Hospital Association and is an outspoken proponent of diversity and inclusion.

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