Thursday, July 18, 2024

Power List 2023: Health Care

Carl Armato
Chip Baggett
Ebony Boulware
Wesley Burks 
Mary Jo Cagle
Bruce Cohen


Mickey Foster
Julie Freischlag
Jag Gill
Donald Gintzig
Tina Gordon
Ken Haynes

Steve Lawler
Greg Lowe
Mike Nagowski
Dale Owen
Cristy Page 
Alec Parker 


Chris Peek
Michael Waldrum
Roxie Wells
Gene Woods*


president, CEO | Advocate Health

Since being recruited to lead North Carolina’s biggest health care system in 2016, Woods, 58, has become one of his industry’s most powerful and active leaders. Woods has more than doubled Atrium Health’s size by arranging partnerships with Winston-Salem-based Wake Forest Baptist Health and Advocate Aurora Health Care, which has major market shares in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets. In both instances, little money changed hands as Atrium leadership gained control by emphasizing long-term benefits from combining rather than making a major upfront investment.

Upon arriving in Charlotte, Woods made clear that building one of the nation’s largest health care systems was vital to make capital investments , improve technology and negotiate payment contracts with increasingly large insurers.  

Some of his merger efforts didn’t pan out, such as Atrium’s efforts to combine with UNC Health, which remains independent, and acquire Wilmington’s system, which is now owned by Winston-Salem-based Novant Health.

But newly formed Advocate Health has annual revenue topping $27 billion, 67 hospitals and more than 150,000 staffers in six states. It dwarfs other N.C. systems and is the fifth-largest U.S. not-for-profit hospital system.

The Penn State University graduate helped Charlotte fulfill a long-term goal with Wake Forest University’s plan for a medical school campus slated to open in 2024. A board director at Best Buy, he’s also leading efforts to attract more medical companies to Charlotte and Winston-Salem.

Favorite family tradition: Cooking together   

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Grammy Award-winning Gat3 Recording Studio in southwest Charlotte.

What do you listen to on your commute: NPR

Major inspiration: My parents. They worked hard so that I could be the first college graduate of the family.

Career highlight: Coming together with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and launching the creation of our new Innovation District, The Pearl, in Charlotte – which will house the second campus of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and train the next generation of world-class clinicians.

Favorite hobby after work: Catching up with family and friends. Playing guitar and writing music.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Be the type of leader you would want to be led by.

Key industry change in next five years: Eliminating health care disparities across the country.


president, CEO | Novant Health

The CPA heads a health system that employs
35,000 people, including 1,800 physicians, mainly in the Charlotte, Triad and Wilmington areas. He joined Novant in 2008
and became CEO in 2012. Novant has revenue
of about $7.6 billion annually. Armato holds degrees from Norwich University and Southwestern Louisiana University. 


CEO | N.C. Medical Society

Baggett ensures the collective voice of 10,000 doctors and medical professionals is heard by state lawmakers. He has been with the association since 2007, becoming CEO in 2020. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University and earned a law degree at N.C. Central University.


dean, chief science officer | Wake Forest School of Medicine
Charlotte, Winston-Salem

Boulware succeeded Julie Freischlag as dean in October after nine years at Duke University Health System, where she was vice dean for translational science. Her role comes as Wake Forest expands its medical school to Charlotte. She started her career at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She has degrees from Vassar College, Duke University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Major inspiration: I am inspired and driven by the principles of fairness, humanity, and justice. These core principles are what have compelled me to study and teach ways to achieve health and health equity for all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds or where they live.

Career highlight: My current role as dean and chief science officer at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. I love working with students, faculty, and staff who are all motivated to do everything possible to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities we serve.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Find your motivating “north star” (the reasons you decided to pursue a career in health care) and use that as your inspiration to make a difference.

Key industry change in next five years: Many social factors –– including education, employment, housing  –– are the major drivers of health and well-being. This is changing how we think about delivering health care. I anticipate many of our treatments will not only focus on providing medications or other therapies, but they will also focus on addressing an individual’s  social needs, such as poverty.


CEO | UNC Health
dean | UNC School of Medicine
Chapel Hill

Burks, 68, joined UNC Health in 2011 as chairman of the department of pediatrics. In 2019, he was named CEO of the system, which has 11 hospitals and nearly 30,000 employees. The graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences previously worked at Duke Medical Center.

Favorite family tradition: Our family has a traditional Christmas celebration, sharing a meal and opening presents in an unhurried fashion.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: North Carolina’s mountains remind me of my childhood in Arkansas and my grandparents’ house. We particularly like Grandfather Mountain and Linville areas.

What do you listen to on your commute: Nice days offer me a 20-minute walk to work. I enjoy thinking and planning for the day ahead those mornings.

Major inspiration: I met Shelley, who had severe eczema and food allergies, in training. She was constantly itching and not sleeping. I could treat the condition, but she inspired me to think about changing the ways we cared for patients like her. That led me on a more than 30-year path studying peanut allergy and developing new treatments. 

Career highlight: Watching our frontline teammates — people who had taken care of the sickest COVID-19 patients — receive their first vaccine shots.

Favorite hobby after work: Watching British mystery shows, following and playing sports, especially golf.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Always be open to the “A-Ha” moments that can change the course of your life and career.


CEO, president | Cone Health

A five-story tower at Moses Cone Hospital should open in 2025 to aid heart and vascular patients. The health system employs 13,000 workers. The University of Alabama graduate joined Cone Health in 2011 and became the first physician and female CEO in 2021. She had previously been chief operating officer.

Favorite family tradition: Jigsaw puzzles during the holidays

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Asheville

What do you listen to on your commute: Sports radio channel and ESPNU

Major inspiration: My major inspiration is the Bible and Christian music because it grounds me spiritually on what’s really important in life.

Favorite hobby after work: Sit on my back porch with a good book and watch the birds at my bird feeder.

Career highlight: Serving Cone Health

Best advice to industry newcomer: Be ready for change. It’s constant. Keep a sense of humor.

Key industry change in next five years: More movement to outpatient and home care.


CEO | OrthoCarolina

The foot and ankle surgeon joined OrthoCarolina at its founding in 2005. Cohen leads one of the nation’s largest independent orthopedic networks — more than 300 providers and 1 million annual patient visits at more than 30 sites from Boone to Pembroke. He’s a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Medical College of Georgia.


CEO | FirstHealth of the Carolinas 

A former hospital president for Cone Health, he joined the four-hospital system in 2019. He oversees 5,300 employees serving patients in 15 counties. He has a community-health degree from East Carolina University and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. 

Favorite NC place to visit: From the mountains to the coast. Fortunate to live in the heart of American golf. Nothing beats the ECU football experience.

Major inspiration: Tim Rice, a retired Cone Health CEO. I learned from and admired his leadership style. He taught me how to run a health system effectively and instilled in me the importance of employee engagement.

Career highlight: FirstHealth being named to the Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals list for the second consecutive year. FirstHealth is the only community hospital in North Carolina to be named to this prestigious list. Success of our health system built on exceptional employees, providers and volunteers.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Positive organizational culture drives employee engagement, patient safety and quality outcomes.

Key industry change in next five years: North Carolina faces an estimated shortage of nearly 12,500 registered nurses and more than 5,000 LPNs by 2033. A key focus for hospitals and health systems will continue to be a broad approach to expanding and strengthening the health care workforce.


CEO | Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist
chief academic officer | Advocate Health


Freischlag took on her Atrium role when it combined with Wake Forest Baptist in 2020. Former head of surgery and chief surgeon at Johns Hopkins, she earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois and a medical degree from Rush University. She’s helped lead Wake Forest’s plans to expand its medical school to Charlotte.

Favorite family tradition: Taking vacations to a different spot each time.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Asheville

What do you listen to on your commute: ’80s and ’90s music.

Major inspiration: My mother because she told me to get educated, saying, “No one can take it away from you.”

Favorite hobby after work: Talking to my husband and having a glass of wine. Crafting. 

Career highlight: Becoming CEO of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, CAO of Advocate Health, and executive vice president for health affairs, Wake Forest University.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Take chances and keep directed to the North Star.

Key industry change in next five years: More telehealth; more preventative care; better equity for all.


CEO | Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat

In its centennial year, the multispecialty practice has more than 150 providers at 18 locations in both Carolinas. Gill, CEO since 2013, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia College, a master’s in health-systems management from the University of Missouri, and a doctorate in health-systems management from Tulane University.  

Favorite family tradition: Watching football together

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Asheville

What do you listen to on your commute: NPR

Major inspiration: Too many to name. I have been blessed with numerous mentors.

Career highlight: Helped build the first rural children’s hospital, Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, in Danville, Pennsylvania, since the 1920s.

Favorite hobby after work: Unwind with friends and family. Attending college football games.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Be a sponge and ask lots of questions.

Key industry change in next five years: Reimbursement changes.


president, CEO | WakeMed Health and Hospitals

A retired Navy rear admiral, Gintzig, 64, began his current role with WakeMed in 2013, first on an interim basis. WakeMed won state approval this year for a 150-bed behavioral health hospital in Knightdale and a 45-bed acute care hospital in Garner. He is a George Washington University graduate.

Favorite family tradition: Thanksgiving

Favorite N.C. place to visit: My home

What do you listen to on your commute: Classic rock on the way to work, classical on the way home.

Major inspiration: I saw my parents devoting their lives to making a difference to others.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Stay focused on a greater good and less about your role in making that happen.


CEO | NC Nurses Association

Founded in 1902, the North Carolina Nurses Association represents all 122,000 registered nurses in the state. Gordon previously 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, southest region | Advocate Health

Haynes, 54, joined Atrium in 2017 and oversees surgery centers and free-standing emergency departments in addition to services including Levine Cancer Institute, Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute, Musculoskeletal Institute, Neuroscience Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital. He previously was CEO for San Antonio’s CHRISTUS Health’s Santa Rosa Hospital System.

Favorite family tradition: Christmas Eve candlelight service with family.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Pinehurst

What do you listen to on your commute: Sirius XM 63 The Message Radio

Major inspiration: My parents, because of the sacrificial loving environment they created, exhibiting authentic Christian values.

Career highlight: The amazing response our team had during COVID-19 for the Greater Charlotte region.

Favorite hobby after work: Outdoor activities including golfing, hunting and attending sports events.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Stay focused on how your decisions impact the patients, caregivers and communities.

Key industry change in next five years: The rebuild of our patient-facing clinical talent.


president, CEO | North Carolina Healthcare Association

Lawler, 63, previously worked at Carolinas HealthCare System (now Atrium) and Vidant Health (now ECU Health), where he was president of the main Greenville hospital from 2007-14. He has led the hospital industry association since 2017. The Citadel graduate has an MBA from Georgia Southern University.

Favorite family tradition: My side of the family always has an Italian Christmas dinner. My mother’s parents were from Italy.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Crystal Coast

What do you listen to on your commute: Either e-books or 70s and 80s music.

Major inspiration: I am humbled by those in health care whose calling is to care for others.

Career highlight: At Bertie Memorial Hospital, now ECU Health, in Windsor, we helped that community rethink how health care was planned and delivered. We built a critical access hospital and invited community partners to share our campus.

Favorite hobby after work: A long walk. Golf combines my favorite elements – outdoors, building relationships, having a short memory, and self-improvement.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Be courageous, ask good questions. If we are to solve complex problems and make the lives of others better, we have to be able to listen to the people we serve.

Key industry change in next five years: The health care industry will continue to transform itself, moving from a destination for people who are sick and/or critically ill to being a partner and navigator for patients, families, and communities so that all can reach their full health and potential.


president | North Carolina division, HCA Healthcare 

He joined Mission Health in 2019 when HCA Healthcare completed its $1.5 billion acquisition of the Asheville-based hospital. The University of Utah graduate has an MBA from the University of Minnesota. He earlier led Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Iredell County and was CEO of HCA hospitals in Richmond, Virginia, and Fort Pierce, Florida.

Favorite family tradition: Spending July Fourth on the lake with my wife, four teenage boys and extended family and friends. We refer to our family as Team Lowe!

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Downtown Asheville for the food, boutiques, and street performers. Blue Ridge Parkway for lookout points and hikes.

Major inspiration: Motivated daily by thirst to improve. Inspired by the Mission Health team as they improve the lives of those who come to us for care.

Career highlight: Being part of the team to improve health care in the community.

Favorite hobby: 5 a.m. bicycle rides on Blue Ridge Parkway or in Bent Creek Forest. It’s dark outside, but the peace that exists when very few people are up is amazing. Early morning activity mentally prepares me for the day.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Quote from [retailer James Cash Penney], “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication and clear communication is necessary to management success.” 

Key industry change in next five years: Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to better support clinical decision-making will be the future of healthcare.


CEO | Cape Fear Valley Health System

He made news by announcing a partnership with Methodist University for a new medical school to open in 2026 and train 80 physicians annually, then grow to 120. The health system has eight hospitals and annual revenue topping $1.2 billion. Nagowski has been CEO since 2008.


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 cuts costs and improves care. The group added Gaston Medical Partners in 2021 to expand beyond Mecklenburg County. Owen, 62, has degrees from UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Favorite family tradition: Traveling to the coast of Maine

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Outer Banks

What do you listen to on your commute:  Rock `n’ roll (Stones, Beatles, Eagles)

Major inspiration: Put patients first at the head of the line.  Everything else will work itself out.

Favorite hobby after work: Boating of all types

Career highlight: Being CEO of Tryon Medical Partners

Best advice to industry newcomer: Stay the course and prioritize your training to take care of others. There will be many distractions from inside and outside the practice of medicine.

Key industry change in next five years: Primary care is the foundation of health care. Every sector will try to control it.


executive dean | UNC School of Medicine
Chapel Hill

A Morehead Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill, Page became executive dean in 2019. She also graduated from UNC School of Medicine. She created the FIRST Scholars program designed to train family physicians for underserved populations. 

Favorite family tradition: My children love playing the guitar and drums and enjoy singing together at home and at church.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: As a Wilmington native, I love the coast.

What do you listen to on your commute: Contemporary worship music puts my heart in the right place.

Major inspiration: My faith provides a calling to be a force for good. Also grateful to many mentors that I have had, especially the late Dr. Jeffrey Houpt, who was a role model.

Best advice to industry newcomer: First, always remain focused on doing what is best for our patients and our teammates. Second, build your skills to their peak. Be the person your colleagues trust to solve difficult problems.

Favorite hobby after work: CrossFit workouts and pickleball.

Career highlight: Working alongside Novant Health to expand pediatric specialty care in the Wilmington region. We recruited specialists to provide care that was previously not available within 100 miles.

Key industry change in next five years: Increased partnerships and consolidation, and innovations to help people navigate our healthcare system. New partnerships to train providers and help eliminate the workforce shortages across health care.


executive director | N.C. Dental Society Foundation

He operated a solo practice in Asheville for 28 years, before he sold his business  in 2006 to take a job with the N.C. Dental Society. He took his current post in 2008 at the association, which represents 3,900 dentists. The group provides free, two-day dental clinics across the state and provides professional services for dentists.


CEO, president | CaroMont Health

The Gaston County native has helped 4,400-employee CaroMont remain independent as it invests more than $300 million in a new hospital in Belmont expected to open later this year, an expansion at its Gastonia campus, and health clinics in Cleveland, Gaston and Mecklenburg counties. Peek holds degrees from Gaston College,
UNC Charlotte and Amberton University.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: North Carolina’s small towns have the best of everything. A day exploring a small town is a day well spent.

Major inspiration: I have the distinct privilege of experiencing daily inspiration from the more than 4,000 employees at CaroMont Health. There is no greater inspiration than seeing their expertise and care in action.

Career highlight: Nothing has been more meaningful than leading CaroMont Health through the most significant expansion and capital investment in the history of
the organization.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Listen more than you speak. Trust and empower the experts around you. Inspire conviction to deliver your mission. Create an environment that others want to join and protect it at all costs.

Key industry change in next five years: Health care will continue to see new competitors enter the market, new regulatory changes influence the business model as well as the continuation of mergers and acquisitions.  


CEO | ECU Health
dean | ECU Brody School of Medicine

Waldrum, 61, oversees an agreement between the 12,000-employee system he has led since 2015 and the state-owned medical school, where he became dean in 2021. ECU Health has rebranded from Vidant Health. He has a medical degree from the University of Alabama and a University of Michigan MBA.

Favorite family tradition: Thanksgiving family dinner

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Highlands

What do you listen to on your commute:  Rock `n’ roll music

Major inspiration: The nurses, doctors and other professionals that work to care for other humans. This is hard work intellectually, emotionally and physically, and has such an impact for the patients, their families and our communities.

Career highlight: Being dean and CEO at ECU Health

Favorite hobby after work: Dinner with my wife. Golf.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Take the time to gain experience and learn about the complexities of health care.

Key industry change in next five years: Payment reform that drives value.


president | Cape Fear Valley Health Hoke Hospital

Wells, 53, joined Fayetteville-based Cape Fear Valley as a physician in 2010 and took her current post in 2014. She’s past chair of the N.C. Healthcare Association. She has degrees from Fayetteville State University and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Asheville/Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall.

What do you listen to on your commute: Podcasts

Major inspiration: My daughter, Jalyn Reid Wells.  She is a member of Gen Z and true to form, she is highly collaborative, self-reliant, and pragmatic. She values diversity in her circle of friends and colleagues and she has found and continues to fashion her own identity.

Career highlight: Building a culture at Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital that embodies our belief that people are at the center of all we do. Our team believes in caring for our patients, their families, our community, and each other by ensuring that we practice at the top of our license and experiences in a compassionate and consistent manner.

Favorite hobby after work: Spend the evening with my spouse. My favorite hobby is traveling.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Be your authentic self. If they don’t like you for who you are, you will not like you for who you are not. 

Key industry change in next five years: Health care will become more dependent on technology, artificial intelligence.

For 40 years, sharing the stories of North Carolina's dynamic business community.

Related Articles