Carrie Willetts, the new president and CEO of WVU Medicine – Uniontown Hospital, is no stranger to Uniontown and the Laurel Highlands.
As a high school student, Willetts spent a summer working for a kayak outfitter company at Ohiopyle, and the avid outdoorsman was smitten with the area’s natural beauty.
Additionally, Willetts’ mother’s family was from New Kensington, and her family regularly drove through Uniontown from her hometown of Petersburg, W.Va., en route to visit.
“I’ve known about Uniontown for a long time. I think the Laurel Highlands are so beautiful. I love to hike, mountain bike and to ski, and my family and I are excited to be in this area,” said Willetts.
Willetts took the helm at the 145-bed Uniontown Hospital in the fall. She also was tapped to serve as WVU Medicine Executive Vice President of Health System Integration and Business Development.
Willetts has more than two decades of experience at health systems in Virginia and Pennsylvania, most recently serving as Senior Vice President and President of the East Region for WellSpan Health for the past 6 1/2 years.
Willetts said that, as a native of West Virginia, she has “always had a heart for all things WVU.”
She has long kept an eye on WVU Medicine and its expansion – the health system operates in all but 14 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, and has clinics in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio – and acknowledged she is excited about the growth of Uniontown Hospital and its mission to provide “exceptional care, close to home” since it became a part of the health system in 2021.
“I have followed the growth and success of the organization for quite some time. What made me choose WVU Medicine was our mission. We work in health care because we want to improve people’s health. But our mission also is to chart the health trajectory of the community we serve, to connect the dots on behalf of our patients,” explained Willetts. “The community WVU serves is not always affluent or has the best access to health care, so we want to bring services to the community, rather than expect patients to come to us. We want to provide a depth and breadth of services and specialty care so patients don’t have to travel a long distance for services.”
Since Uniontown Hospital was acquired by WVU Medicine, it has recruited more than 60 physicians for its staff of primary care physicians and specialists, and added dozens of services, all with the goal of reducing the need of patients traveling to Pittsburgh or surrounding areas for care.
Among the specialty care it offers are women’s care, pediatrics, orthopedics, pulmonary and critical care, cancer care, and ear, nose and throat care.
The hospital has been recognized for excellence in stroke and diabetes care, recently opened a new urology clinic, and aims to resume labor and delivery services sometime in 2024.
“Our teams are engaged, highly knowledgeable, super friendly, kind and caring and provide excellent health care. They are our front door into the community,” said Willetts.
Willetts assumed the role of president and CEO following the departure of Dr. Davis Hess, who serves as president and CEO of WVU Medicine United Hospital Center.
Willetts also has held leadership roles at the University of Virginia Health System in Virginia, and Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Va.
She has a master’s degree in health-care administration from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Willetts believes her role is to help leaders at WVU Medicine to reach their full potential so that the health system provides safe, high-quality care for patients.
She also emphasizes the importance of culture in recruiting and maintaining a highly skilled staff, especially amid the continuing nationwide nursing shortage.
“I don’t think any industry or business is immune to staffing challenges. Health-care workers have lots of options for where to work. Our goal is to differentiate ourselves through culture. Our goal is to be the best place for people to work,” said Willetts. “It’s our responsibility to create and maintain competitive wages and benefits, and to provide an environment where people are kind and feel well-supported and cared about.”
And three years after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States, “COVID is part of our regular operating processes,” said Willetts.
She commended the hospital and its leadership, which received state recognition for caring for patients and leading immunization efforts.
“This hospital was disproportionately impacted by COVID, and had one of the highest hospitalization rates in the state. I commend the leadership team for taking the lead for the care of our really sick patients while promoting the public health side of it,” Willetts said.
For Willetts, what makes WVU Medicine valuable is its 16 community hospitals anchored by its flagship hospital, Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., and its five academic institutes and three medical centers.
“One of WVU Medicine’s strengths is its many services, and not only its large number of family hospitals but its leading educational institutes that are performing cutting-edge research,” said Willetts.