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Carolinas Medical Center president says passion, integrity and commitment are characteristics of successful leaders

07_03CEO10_1.jpgBOONE—Suzanne H. Freeman says her experiences growing up in a spiritual family environment, and being a wife, mother and busy professional helped prepare her for her role as president of Carolinas Medical Center (CMC).

Freeman spoke to students and faculty Tuesday during the Harlan E. Boyles Distinguished CEO Lecture Series at Appalachian State University about elements that set the stage for successful leadership. The lecture series is sponsored by the Walker College of Business at Appalachian.

Carolinas Medical Center, located in Charlotte, is the flagship facility of Carolinas Healthcare System and the third largest public healthcare system in the country. The center serves patients throughout the Southeast.

As the oldest of five children, Freeman said her career path was forged early in life. She often played nurse as a small child. “But I can assure you I always was in charge,” she said.

Freeman began her career as a staff nurse atCMC in 1975 after graduating from UNC Charlotte. Within six months she was in a leadership position in her department. As she mastered various leadership skills, her responsibilities increased.

Freeman steadily rose through the ranks at CMC, from novice nurse to a chief nurse executive, then vice president. In 2000, she was named president of the health care organization. At the same time, she was able to balance her role as a wife and mother to three children – and learn about her inner strength in the process.

“Although I certainly can not take sole credit for accomplishing this important feat, I will tell you that I learned a lot about what one can accomplish if appropriately focused,” Freeman said. “I was balancing my natural temperament with the challenges of motherhood in the evenings and on weekends, and by day the focus on business and relationship challenges commensurate with our ever-changing health care industry kept me challenged.”

In addition to having a strong spiritual base, passion, integrity and a sense of purpose, Freeman said following a set of tenets has helped her succeed as a parent and leader.

“You must treasure education and consider it a continuing obligation. You must be firm, resolute and committed in your beliefs and actions,” she said. “You must learn from your mistakes and in the future make sure that you make better decisions.”

Freeman also said that individuals must value people and surround themselves with people who exude qualities they value. And they should consider various avenues of approach when making a decision.

Freeman said having a career that allows her to make a difference in patient health and comfort, inspire colleagues to provide compassionate care in creative and innovative ways, and work to improve the efficiency and delivery of health care continues to excite her.

While those opportunities have helped Freeman define her success, each person must have their own set of goals and measures to define their success, she said.

“My life’s success is going to be measured by what I leave behind: children who are going to make the world a better place than they found it; a health care organization that can sustain any whims of time, and the people I have impacted and are now future leaders. And it’s going to be a life well-lived with a spiritual and moral compass.”


Photo Caption: Suzanne H. Freeman, president of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, was the featured speaker at the Harlan E. Boyles Distinguished CEO Lecture Series sponsored by Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business. Speakers in the series receive a crystal replica of the American eagle, which symbolizes strength, gracefulness, keenness of vision and power of flight. “The CEOs of our North Carolina corporations possess these same characteristics,” said Walker College of Business Dean Randy Edwards. (Appalachian photo by University photographer Mike Rominger)