Top 25 Emerging Leaders
Chad Wable, 35
President and CEO, St. Mary's Health System
Chad Wable left a recruiting camp for the National Football League roughly a dozen years ago for a career in healthcare, but not the medical degree he had pursued and carefully considered as an undergraduate.
Instead, he returned to West Virginia and turned his attention to healthcare administration.
“I'll say that a dream is only a dream until you write it down,” Wable says. “A dream becomes a goal when you write it down. I never wrote down that I wanted to be a professional football player, but I did write down that I wanted to be a hospital administrator.”
He swiftly realized that goal, joining the management team at Monongalia Health System in Morgantown, W.Va., after earning a master's degree in healthcare administration and a master's in community health education. And when his mentor, Robert Ritz, left Monongalia to become chief executive of St. Mary's Health System in Waterbury, Conn., Wable soon got the call to join him.
“You could tell he wanted to win,” says Ritz, who Wable first approached in 1998 for a master's degree project. Ritz, now president and CEO of 465-bed St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Ill., says Wable brought to his work the discipline and drive that he demonstrated as a competitive athlete. Wable was swiftly promoted from St. Mary's director of strategic planning and business development to vice president of ambulatory operations and business development. Ritz says the promotion came as Wable mastered his strategic development duties and sought professional growth. In 2008, Wable became executive vice president of strategy development and system operations, and before the year was over, the then-33-year-old was named president and CEO after Ritz stepped down to head St. John's. “I've had an interesting path,” says Wable, the son of a nurse and son-in-law of a doctor. “I started off with ambitions to be a physician” and aspired to play professional football, both of which he pursued. Wable, 35, who is married to his high school sweetheart, says talks with his father-in-law contributed to his decision to pursue administration rather than medicine. At Monongalia Health System, which includes 175-bed Monongalia General Hospital, home healthcare and durable medical equipment services and a rehabilitation hospital, Wable says he gained a wide variety of experience with guidance from Ritz. When Ritz left St. Mary's in 2008, it was Wable who stepped in to lead ongoing merger negotiations, which the prospective partners abandoned as the economy sank. Wable has since sought to boost St. Mary's Hospital's patient-satisfaction scores and quality measures, and with success. He says that he believes healthcare insiders need to do “everything we can” to attract talented people into medical careers.