FirstHealth of the Carolinas looked far and wide these last few months for a replacement to retiring CEO David Kilarski. And yet, in the end, its answer was much closer than it thought.
The FirstHealth of the Carolinas Board of Directors on Thursday announced the choice of Mickey W. Foster as the health system’s new CEO.
Foster is just up the road in Greensboro, but his roots are even closer: Sanford.
Foster, 47, is currently the president of Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and senior vice president for Cone Health in Greensboro, a position he has held since 2014.
He has more than 25 years of healthcare executive experience including leadership roles in community hospitals, academic medical centers and multi-hospital systems.
Foster has broad experience both in rural and urban settings. He was president of Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville and was a hospital executive in Henderson. He also worked at Duke Raleigh Hospital and, in Greensboro, oversaw a behavioral health hospital and cancer center before taking his current post.
“We were able to attract top-notch candidates from across the country but we found our new leader right here in North Carolina,” said Carolyn Helms, chair of the FirstHealth Board of Directors. “His proven track record and extensive experience made him the ideal candidate to lead an integrated and complex health system such as FirstHealth of the Carolinas.”
Foster’s first day will be July 8.
Kilarski, who has served as the CEO of FirstHealth of the Carolinas and the President of Moore Regional Hospital since 2011, announced his retirement last October, setting up the search.
“I offer my thanks to the members of the Search Committee and the Board of Directors for their time, energy and expertise in selecting a new CEO,” Helms said. “Their dedication to FirstHealth is unmatched and greatly appreciated.”
Foster grew up in Sanford and earned a Bachelor of Science in community health from East Carolina University in Greenville. He earned a Master of Health Services Administration from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
“I'm honored and humbled to be FirstHealth’s next CEO,” said Foster. “I thank the members of the FirstHealth Board for their confidence in me and I look forward to contributing to the continued success of FirstHealth. I also thank the leadership and staff of Cone Health for the opportunities they provided me during my career with them. I will always remember the lessons they taught me about leadership and commitment to serving our patients and communities.”
Foster faces numerous challenges in his new role. As an independent health system, FirstHealth is surrounded by major players such as Atrium Health in Charlotte, UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill and Duke Health based in Durham. Those massive networks have been extending their reach outward, purchasing hospitals, smaller health systems and physician practices and ancillary medical services. Atrium this past week announced it was negotiating a potential merger with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
FirstHealth has not stayed still over the years. It covers a 15-county region with a network that has grown over the years to include four hospitals, related services and almost 5,000 employees. It recently opened a series of convenient care centers, including a large one in Sanford, along with a new fitness center next door. Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst remains its flagship hospital, and much of its sophisticated care is based here.
Health care costs remain a critical issue for hospitals, many of whom are under increasing budget pressures as expenditures rise and reimbursements tighten. Hospitals have been lobbying for the state to increase Medicaid coverage to help with paying for the care of a larger population that lacks health insurance and typically has more medical needs.
Managing all those issues, while also managing growth and industry matters will give Foster a full plate once he begins.