“This organization has both a CEO and a janitor. If one of us doesn’t show up three days in row, which one do you think the organization will miss?”
Dana Weston heard those words from her father, Ronald, when she was a girl helping him clean buildings. Now, Weston is the president and chief executive officer of UNC Rockingham Health Care, which includes a 108-bed, community hospital and a 121-bed skilled nursing facility in Eden, North Carolina. Her father’s advice continues to inform her leadership style and the value she places on everyone in her organization.
“Every single person that’s here is critical to patient outcomes,” Weston says. “Growing up cleaning buildings with my dad was one of the things that made me a much better leader.”
Originally from St. Louis, Weston, who is 36, took the helm of Morehead Memorial Hospital in 2015. She led the hospital through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy that resulted in a partnership with the nationally acclaimed UNC Health Care system. It also preserved the rural community’s largest employer.
UNC Health Care immediately tapped Weston to be president and CEO of the hospital that was renamed UNC Rockingham Health Care. Her leadership skills have not been overlooked. A fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, Weston was recently named Young Healthcare Executive of the Year by the National Association of Health Service Executives (NAHSE). She’s become an advocate for rural healthcare and a sought-after public speaker across North Carolina
Throughout her career, Weston’s youth, gender and race have placed her in the minority, a role she’s adjusted to by being flexible, building relationships and keeping the focus on the things people share.
For Weston, those relationship-building opportunities don’t happen behind a desk.
“From an early age, many of us have been told that we have to be twice as good to get ahead,” says Weston. “So we’re in our offices trying to do that, and we miss the opportunity to form relationships.
“When promotions come along, it’s not solely talent that’s being discussed; it’s the fact that we (diverse executives) really haven’t connected with anybody,” she says. “It’s often the folks who are forming relationships over dinner or on the golf course who are being tapped for the next opportunity.”
Building relationships, finding mentors and using sites like the EDC Navigator help close gaps that many qualified, diverse executives experience, she adds.
“The way the Navigator is set up, it outlines four focus areas: knowing yourself, mastering your job, leveraging relationships and gaining visibility,” she says. “The Navigator is the ‘FUBU’ of career sites: It’s for us and by us. It’s not people who haven’t experienced the journey trying to tell you what it’s like to be a minority in an executive world. It’s people who have lived it. That’s what makes it useful and different.”