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SMITHFIELD — Johnston Health CEO Chuck Elliott is retiring Dec. 31 after 10 years of service.
“This is pretty much been my life plan,” said Elliott. “My family and I talked about it for a long time. I’m turning 67 and it’s time, I’ve had a great run. We actually bought our retirement home in Isle of Palms, South Carolina, near Charleston, 10 years ago. I feel like I’m pretty active and have some things to do. I want to travel and visit my first grandchiild who’s due in December.”
Elliott has been in health care administration for 43 years. Before coming to Johnston Health, Elliott was the CEO of Rowan Regional Hospital in Salisbury.
A native of Decatur, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, Elliott attended Furman University where he earned an undergraduate degree in political science. At Georgia State University, Elliott earned his master’s degree in health care administration.
He then entered the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps and was stationed four years at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. While there, he earned his master’s degree in business administration from Golden Gate University. He met his wife, Deb, while serving in the medical corps.
“We met on active duty in San Antonio, Texas, a training ground for medical training,” said Elliott. “We were both stationed at Letterman in San Francisco and married 37 years. Friendship and a sense of partnership and the keys to a successful marriage.”
Elliott said his tenure at Johnston Health has been a rewarding experience.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be at a place that’s growing and has the right attitude about change,” said Elliott. “We’ve had the ability to add and expand additional services in Smithfield and in Clayton. Our measured quality has gotten significantly better through the years.”
Elliott said the public’s perception of Johnston Health has changed over the years. People no longer have to travel to Raleigh or Chapel Hill to receive quality medical care.
“We get people who come here and say, ‘I didn’t know we had this here,’” said Elliott. “Things have changed. Our affiliation with UNC Health Care has taken us to another level.”
Elliott praised both the University of North Carolina and the local board of directors for being partners in growth and change.
“UNC brings us guidance from their past knowledge regarding hospital operation,” said Elliott. “It has brought things to the table that helped and provided the support we need, allowing us to run an organization that responds to the needs of our community.”
Elliott cited one example of how the UNC affiliation has paid off.
“Right after we affiliated, we had a major incident at the hospital where our whole computer system, our server was flooded,” Elliott. “UNC brought a team from Chapel Hill that got (it) back up in days. It would’ve taken weeks on our own.”
The Elliotts have two grown children, a daughter who’s married and lives in Charlotte and a son who lives in Charleston.
His son’s wedding and daughter’s due date are less than seven days apart in December.
“We’re holding our breath,” said Elliott. “As far as our grandchild’s gender, that’s being kept a surprise.”
Elliott said he’s looking forward to retirement.
“I will pursue other interests and evaluate where my passions might be,” he said. “I’m definitely not seeking another career. Now I get to pick and choose.”
He said he’d like to travel.
“I’ve done some traveling in the past,” said Elliott. I’d like to go to New York and I’ve never been to the northwestern United States. But we’re going to spread our travel plans out. We’ve got plenty of time.”
UNC Health Care says it will work with the board at Johnston Health and other stakeholders to find the right person to lead the hospital into the future. UNC Health Care plans to start a national search and expects to have a new CEO in place when Elliott retires in December.