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'We did do a lot of things fast’: Carilion’s Nancy Agee looks back on a decade of transformation

“Can we do it? Heck yeah, we can do it”

ROANOKE, Va. – At the start of a new decade, we're taking a closer look at one of the biggest drivers of the region's economy.

Carilion Clinic has exploded in the last 10 years, growing its footprint, attracting more jobs and serving more patients in Southwest Virginia.

Since 2010, Carilion has grown from about 9,000 employees to more than 13,000 people. In that time, the health system has gone from offering 10 medical specialties to 77.

That success wasn’t something President and CEO Nancy Agee could always see. About 10 years ago, she said Carilion was at a crossroads.

"There was a lot going on that was good, but one of the things I think Carilion's leadership has done for a long time is what I call periscope leading and that is looking around corners to see where the future is and I think that's exactly what we did," Agee said.

A clear vision became Carilion’s north star and its turning point. Agee said leaders made a firm decision to be not-for-profit, headquartered in Roanoke, maintain high-quality healthcare and emphasize education.

Those decisions evolved into partnerships with Virginia Tech and Radford University, the creation of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and a medical school.

“The partnership with Virginia Tech really was a big change. It was a pivot for us and I think has been enormously successful for Virginia Tech, for Carilion, much more importantly, for the citizens of Virginia,” said Agee.

Decisions and investments made during that time drove change for Carilion and for the region as a whole. It certainly didn't happen overnight, but the timeline was impressive.

“We did do a lot of things fast, that's true," Agee said. “There's no magic in it. A lot of it is just hard work, doing the right thing, staying focused. Sometimes I can't believe what's all happened in 10 years. I have such enormous pride."

The hospital, once at a crossroads, transformed into a world-class institution for research and healthcare.

"Sometimes we are pretty humble here in Southwest Virginia and we think everybody else must be doing it better. And what I now know is we're doing it better," Agee said.

Carilion rounded out the decade with additional expansion projects in the works and a sense of accomplishment, making the vision for the next decade even more clear.

"A lot of excitement about the future and kind of casting off any doubt, ‘Can we do it?’ Heck yeah, we can do it," Agee said.

We’ll show more from our conversation with Agee, specifically looking at the future of Carilion, during 10 News at 6 on Tuesday.


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