HCA Healthcare
April 25, 2019

SOURCE: Asheville Citizen Times
AUTHOR: Dillon Davis

Nancy J. Cable talks about what she is excited about in her new role as the chancellor of UNC Asheville on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. (Photo: Angeli Wright)

ASHEVILLE — After eight months on the job, Nancy J. Cable is ready to make it official. 

This week, Cable will be formally installed as chancellor of UNC Asheville, the eighth such person to hold the position. Cable, a longtime higher education leader and nonprofit executive, took over the reins of UNCA in August, replacing Mary K. Grant and the interim Joe Urgo. She was selected by ex-UNC System President Margaret Spellings from three final candidates compiled by a search committee.

Before Asheville, she most recently was president of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations in Jacksonville and held leadership roles at Davidson College, the University of Virginia and Bates College, among others.

"It’s a real privilege to be here. Not every day is easy, but it’s not meant to be," Cable told the Citizen Times in an April 17 interview. "This is a dynamic, intellectual, student-oriented, top-notch faculty entity that serves this community in so many different ways. We operate with a very sound educational mission, what with a lot of flange out in the community.

The university scheduled a week of events leading up to Cable's April 26 installation as its eighth chancellor. Included are five roundtable discussions on topics ranging from health to racial equity to interfaith leadership. Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, also will deliver an April 25 lecture at Kimmel Arena. A complete list of university programming is available here.

Cable sat down with the Citizen Times to discuss notable topics from her first year in Asheville. Here are a few highlights:

On university capital projects

Rhoads Robinson Hall on the campus of UNC Asheville.  (Photo: Angeli Wright)

There are a few areas of focus for Cable, who acknowledges there already was a "rolling script" of what's needed on campus before she arrived. 

"Not everything stops when a chancellor leaves and starts when a new one arrives," she said. 

But for the foreseeable future, she expects many of her priorities will be fed into a master planning process already underway at the university. Among those priorities, she would like to improve upon some of the campus' academic facilities, increase its undergraduate student population — now at about 3,400 students  —  and place a high priority on "environmentally sustainable" design of buildings, walkways and on-campus roadways.

That also includes making classroom space more "flexible," she said.

"We want more spaces that can teach generally with the classroom that is well outfitted to do things online, to do multimedia presentations as it relates to chemistry or as it relates to physics or biology and the humanities," Cable said. "And so I’d like to see our classrooms are constructed and able to be operated in a way that almost any discipline can be taught in that classroom."

The university — led by a 17-member steering committee — has been developing a new master plan since early 2018. It now is in the fourth of five total phases in a process it expects to wrap in July. Once complete, it has been billed as a document that will "articulate a long-range strategy" to make the best use of its land and advance UNCA's strategic goals.

On Dogwood Health Trust and the Mission sale

The main visitor entrance to Mission Hospital.  (Photo: Angeli Wright)

Part of Cable's expertise is in the health care field. At the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, she headed an institution that spends some $15 million annually on health care as well as public television and the environment.

She started her work in Asheville in August 2018, the same month HCA Healthcare signed a definitive agreement to acquire Mission Health for $1.5 billion. The deal, which was finalized in February, transferred ownership of the six-hospital, not-for-profit Mission system to HCA, a for-profit hospital conglomerate based in Tennessee.

Much of the proceeds have gone into the creation of Dogwood Health Trust, a health conversion foundation planning to spend millions of dollars annually funding programs addressing social determinants of health, essentially a set of conditions in a person's life which influence health outcomes.

It intends to open up its first grant cycle in 2020.

Dogwood currently is in the process of identifying its first chief executive. It is being run in the interim by a 12-member board headed by Janice Brumit, a longtime local nonprofit leader who also heads a chain of Arby's restaurants with her husband as a part of Brumit Restaurant Group.

Janice Brumit, chairman of the Dogwood Health Trust. (Photo: LGA)

"That was a family foundation; and this will be a health conversion trust," she said. "But the grantmaking and the IRS requirements and the metrics around grantmaking are very much similar to what we were doing. They’ll have roughly $40 million to $50 million a year when they’re up and going; we gave $12 million to $15 million a year.

"It’s a big responsibility to manage that money and make sure you can meet the needs."

Her former employer touts its contributions to medical schools, hospice programs and other health care initiatives it's made for much of the past six decades. In the coming years, it plans to fund issues related to palliative care — a specialized form of care designated for patients with serious illnesses.

It also has been billed as one of the early supporters of hospice care in the U.S.

Reflecting on her prior work, Cable acknowledges there are similarities with what the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations do and what Dogwood Health Trust plans to do. Asked if she would consider a future role on the Dogwood board given her experience, she said she would if the opportunity presented itself.

"I have a deep respect for Janice Brumit as chair of the board and for Jack Cecil and others," she said. "I would trust their judgment. If asked, I would be delighted to serve, but I also trust whoever they choose, frankly."

On Tamika Mallory

Tamika Mallory, national co-president of the Women's March, gives the keynote address for Martin Luther King Jr. Week at UNCA's Lipinsky Auditorium Jan. 24, 2019. Mallory has been the subject of criticism in the past year for refusing to condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who regularly makes anti-Semitic, homophobic and otherwise offensive remarks. (Photo: Angeli Wright)

The university drew some backlash this year for inviting Women's March leader Tamika Mallory to campus as keynote speaker of its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Week. Mallory has in the past been accused of anti-Semitism for refusing to condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Cable said UNCA received "hundreds" of emails critical of its decision to invite Mallory. That does not include a small number of protesters that picketed outside Lipinsky Auditorium on the chilly January evening of the event.

But Cable said Mallory took seriously the volume of pushback surrounding her appearance. She delivered a roughly 45-minute address that evening, knocking down criticism and calling herself a student of King's organization principles emphasizing "fighting injustice where we fight the systems and not the people."

Upon reflection, Cable offered that UNCA fundamentally is "an educational place," and that's the role it has fulfilled prior to Mallory's remarks and in programming that followed it.

"Our role was for our students and our faculty and fellow citizens in Asheville had a learning opportunity and that’s what we structured and that's what we've continued to do," she said. 

Cable added, "It’s given us a refreshed opportunity to do our work very well."