Wed, December 12, 2018
After serving the community of LaGrange – and beyond – as president of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center for almost two decades, Jerry Fulks has announced his retirement effective Friday, Jan. 11.
And just before he leaves, he will have the opportunity to walk the halls of WellStar West Georgia with his successor, whose strong sense of hospital leadership, personable style, passion for community healthcare, and genuine care for serving patients and employees seems to mirror that of the man who has navigated WellStar West Georgia’s helm for the last 17 years.
WellStar Health System announced Tuesday that Coleman Foss, the CEO of Tennova Healthcare-Cleveland in Tennessee since 2007, has been named president of WellStar West Georgia. His first day on the job will be Monday, Jan. 7.
“As the day of my retirement draws closer, I am realizing more and more how emotionally difficult it will be when I don’t walk through the hospital doors on Monday morning for a regular day at the office,” Fulks said. “I’ve always said that a hospital is so much more than bricks and mortar. The heart of WellStar West Georgia lies within our team members, and I can’t begin to express my love and appreciation for my work family.”
Fulks and his wife, Cindy, look forward to continuing their life in LaGrange while visiting their children and grandchildren as often as possible.
As they acclimate to living a new chapter in LaGrange, so too, will Foss and his wife, Amy. Moving to LaGrange will bring them closer to family and to his alma mater, Auburn University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in healthcare administration in 1986. He also received a Master of Science degree in health administration in 1989 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Foss’s healthcare experience includes nearly 25 years in executive roles. At Tennova, he was responsible for the overall management and operations of a 351-bed acute-care hospital. During his tenure, he boosted hospital star ratings through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems; improved patient, physician and employee satisfaction; and reduced turnover from 37 percent to 9 percent.
Foss also initiated several successful programs, including a 24-hour ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) care program, stroke telemedicine, and safety and lean process enhancements—all while advancing financial performance. New initiatives under his watch have included robotic service line development, an accredited orthopedic program, and interventional cardiology expansion of services.
Prior to Tennova, Foss served as CEO of Dyersburg Regional Medical Center, Methodist Healthcare, Volunteer General Hospital and Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and has served on several community boards, including the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Caring Place, and YMCA, where he recently completed a mission trip to Haiti.
“Coleman is value-driven with a passion for bettering the health of communities and supporting local endeavors,” said Carrie Plietz, executive vice president and chief operating officer of WellStar Health System’s hospital division. “I am confident he will keep the trajectory of excellence for WellStar West Georgia and continue his track record of growth and success.”
Fulks has developed a strong foundation for WellStar West Georgia’s new president, Plietz said.
Under his leadership, WellStar West Georgia has worked to enhance access to care in the community by expanding its services, transforming its culture, significantly improving the quality of care delivered to patients, prioritizing patient safety, achieving new heights in patient satisfaction and leading the nation in its early adoption of the Electronic Health Record.
During his tenure at WellStar West Georgia, he was instrumental in creating the West Georgia Health Foundation and WellStar Medical Group – made up of more than 50 physicians and extended providers – as well as launching several new service lines including interventional cardiology, bariatric surgery, occupational medicine, a women’s health center and a wound care center.
Fulks also developed the vision and laid the groundwork for building a new four-story patient tower that houses state-of-the-art facilities for the Heart Clinic, Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit and Labor/Delivery/Recovery suites.
Additionally, he was an instrumental leader leading up to WellStar West Georgia joining the WellStar family in April 2016, ensuring team members were informed, engaged and excited about the new chapter in its storied existence.
Also under his leadership, WellStar West Georgia earned top industry awards that recognize excellence in healthcare service, quality, patient safety and technology. Among them include Truven Health Analytics’ naming of WGMC as one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals in 2017 and 2016. In addition, Georgia Trend magazine named WGMC the No. 1 Large Hospital in the state in 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2013.
Fulks received the CEO of the Year by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals in 2016 and the Chairman’s Award from the Georgia Hospital Association in 2015.
An active member in his community, Fulks has served as chairman of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, president of the LaGrange Rotary Club, and chairman of the West Georgia Technical College Board of Directors. He also has served on boards for United Way of West Georgia, Commercial Bank & Trust of LaGrange, Twin Cedars Family and Children’s Services and the LaGrange-Troup County Development Authority.
He received his Master of Healthcare Administration degree from the Medical College of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Prior to his arrival at West Georgia Medical Center, Jerry held senior executive positions at hospitals in Gainesville, Ga. His healthcare career has spanned 40 years.
“I’ve had a sense of relief in the past few days, ever since Coleman accepted the offer to become WellStar West Georgia’s new president,” Fulks said. “He understands the unique needs of a hometown hospital and its commitment and strong role in improving the health of a community. In talking to him, I’ve enjoyed his personable style, ability to listen, his sense of humor, wealth of knowledge, and unwavering focus on establishing a culture of patient care.”
Mike Patton, chairman of WellStar West Georgia’s board of trustees, said he looks forward to Foss’s arrival and to seeing what the future will bring under his leadership. He also expressed his appreciation for Fulks’ positive impact on the hospital.
“I know Jerry will be right here in town after he retires in just a few short weeks, but the first time I walk around the corner to his office and not see him seated at his desk will no doubt make me emotional,” Patton said. “He has strengthened our community’s hospital year by year and has made an indelible mark on this community through his leadership, friendship and vision.”