EDEN — Top community leader Dana M. Weston has left her position as president and CEO of UNC Rockingham Health Care.
Weston departed, citing personal reasons, according to Myla Barnhardt, director of marketing and public relations for the hospital.
In a Friday afternoon statement, hospital officials named Chief Financial Officer Tonya Brown interim COO.
Hospital officials said they will begin an immediate national search for a top administrator.
Weston, tapped to lead the former Morehead Memorial Hospital in late 2015, headed the rural hospital’s transition to the UNC Health Care system. The move came after Morehead filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and UNC Health Care purchased the facility in early 2018.
Considered a standout leader throughout the community and healthcare industry, Weston won several awards during her tenure in Eden.
The 37-year-old was named one of Triad Business Journal’s most admired CEOs of 2019 and was selected by the National Association of Health Service Executives as Healthcare Executive of the Year in 2018.
Prior to taking the helm at Morehead, Weston spent nearly eight years working for Novant Health Shared Services in various roles. She was also the director of operations for Adept Health — a consultancy firm offshoot of Novant.
A native of St. Louis, the Emory University graduate received her master’s degree in healthcare administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.
In July, Weston told Business North Carolina that UNC Rockingham was still in the integration phase with UNC Health Care.
“Simply being acquired by a large health system does not mean you are safe and out of the woods. So keeping UNC Rockingham off the list of hospital closures remains my priority,” Weston told the magazine’s Stephen McCollum. “If you had asked me what’s next five years ago, I wouldn’t have said CEO and I wouldn’t have said CEO of a struggling rural hospital. I feel like I was brought here for a reason, a purpose, and while we’re closer to that being achieved, we’re not there yet. The goal remains the same: to figure out what model for UNC Rockingham is sustainable.”
Following the news of Weston’s, Eden Mayor Neville Hall said Weston had always been a vocal supporter of Eden in her ventures across the state.
“She has embraced being a member of the community as long as she’s been here and the community has definitely embraced her as a resident,” said Hall. “We are proud of the work she did with the hospital and with her involvement in other community activities.”
Weston is chairman of Eden’s strategic planning committee and also served on the local United Way board.
Weston was appointed to Cardinal Innovation Healthcare’s board of directors in 2018.
She was chosen following the board’s 2018 shakeup and joined shortly after Rockingham County Commissioner and current Cardinal board member Keith Duncan was appointed.
The two are the only Rockingham County residents ever appointed to the managed care organization, which administrates Medicaid of North Carolina.
In a statement, Cardinal, which presides over 20 N.C. counties, said Weston is leaving the area, as well as her hospital post.
“She no longer fulfills the (board’s) statutory requirement of a hospital administrator and will be leaving Cardinal’s Board of Directors,” said the statement. “We thank Dana for her service and wish her well.”