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A former nurse who now heads southern New Jersey's largest health system is the new head of the Medical Center of Central Georgia.

The Medical Center today announced Ninfa Saunders as their new CEO.

She replaces Don Faulk, who retires this year.

A news release says Saunders hasalmost 40 years of hospital administrative and clinical experience.

Shewas most recently the President and COO of Virtua Health, the largest health system in southern New Jersey. The news release says the companyoperates four hospitals, two rehabilitation centers, senior services, home care, ambulatory and outpatient services.

Modern Healthcare reported earlier this year that Saunders left Virtua in February to care for one of her two sons, who was injured in an auto accident.

The Medical Center says Saunders is traveling today and could not be reached for comment.

Check back with 13WMAZ.com for updates on this story today.

Here is the Medical Center news release:

Healthcare Industry Leader Tapped as New President and CEO at Central Georgia Health System/The Medical Center of Central Georgia


MACON, GA (Wednesday, September 12, 2012) - Central Georgia Health System (CGHS) and The Medical Center of Central Georgia (MCCG) announced today the selection of Ninfa M. Saunders, Ph.D., MBA, MSN, as its incoming President and Chief Executive Officer.
The Search Committee, comprised of community board members and physicians, with the assistance of a national search firm, was delegated active management of the search for the CGHS/MCCG President/CEO. A profile of core competencies that met the Board's goals for the organization's vision and strategy was established, and qualified candidate interviews were conducted to narrow down the finalists in this process. Administrators, other board members, and members of medical executive and physician's advisory committees, physician department heads, and academic physician leaders participated in the review of the final two candidates. The committee's selection was ratified by both the CGHS and MCCG boards of directors meeting jointly on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. Dr. Saunders will join CGHS/MCCG on October 1, 2012.

With almost 40 years of hospital administrative and clinical experience, Dr. Saunders was most recently the President and COO of Virtua Health, the largest health system in southern New Jersey, which operates four hospitals, two rehabilitation centers, senior services, home care, ambulatory and outpatient services.
"We are very excited and fortunate to have someone with Dr. Saunders' experience and credentials join the Central Georgia Health System team," said Ray Pippin, Chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority. "We look forward to her continuing the leadership that has been set forth by Don Faulk."

"We offer our many thanks and congratulations to Don Faulk on his long and successful service to our hospital system. The search for his successor has been both extensive and intensive, and has involved an excellent cross section of physicians, board, and staff, " stated Dr. Bill Tift, Chairman of the Medical Executive Committee and Co-chair of the Search Committee. "Ninfa Saunders has emerged as the clear choice to build on the strong foundation created by Mr. Faulk, his leadership team, and the physicians and staff of MCCG. She is very well-educated, has vast clinical and administrative experience, and has the enthusiasm and energy to lead us through the exciting changes taking place in healthcare. With the dedicated support of the medical staff, Dr. Saunders can and will lead the Central Georgia Health System in our quest for high quality, safe, consistent, patient-centered service to our community."

Under Faulk's leadership, MCCG has grown to be the second largest hospital in Georgia, one of five level one trauma centers in the state, and nationally recognized by U.S. News and World Report for excellence in nursing, cardiology and nine other adult specialties.
"Don Faulk, through his leadership, has left a legacy of a top-rated institution that performs as an industry leader in healthcare," said Starr Purdue, Chairman of the CGHS Board of Directors and Co-chair of the Search Committee. "Our newly selected CEO has the background and experience needed to maintain CGHS's solid foundation and to take us to new heights."

Dr. Saunders completed her Doctorate in Healthcare Administration at the Medical University of South Carolina, earned a Master's of Business Administration from Emory University in Atlanta, a Master's of Science in Nursing from the Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., and a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing from Concordia College in Manila, Philippines. Dr. Saunders was recently appointed as Dean's Professor at the Mayers School of Business and serves in the Board of Visitors of the University Sciences of Philadelphia. She is a Distinguished Faculty at Emory University in Atlanta. She is also an Associate Professor at Rutgers University, N.J.

"The clinical and administrative experience, coupled with the energy, vision, and dedication to patients that Ninfa Saunders brings to MCCG make her uniquely qualified to lead our hospital and system," said Nancy Anderson, Chairman of the MCCG Board of Directors. "We are very excited to have her on our team as we face the numerous challenges ahead in this uncharted era of healthcare reform. CGHS and MCCG are well-positioned for this future thanks to Don Faulk's outstanding leadership over the last several decades. Now we must build on that legacy."

Retiring after 39 years of service at MCCG, outgoing CEO Don Faulk set the process in motion last winter when he announced his intention to retire this fall.

"The Search Committee has done an extremely conscientious job in surveying a wide range of excellent candidates to find the next president for CGHS," said Faulk. "Dr. Saunders brings a clinical background combined with broad administrative experience. This should couple well with the great team of professionals at MCCG and propel the organization forward."

Often recognized for her dedication to advanced medical care and clinical quality, Dr. Saunders was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Citizenship and Good Neighbor Award by the American Red Cross and named by South Jersey Magazine as a "Woman to Watch in New Jersey" in 2012.

"I am honored to accept the position of President and CEO of this remarkable organization," said Dr. Saunders. "I am also humbled by the opportunity to follow the exceptional leadership of Don Faulk. He has positioned this organization to be one of Georgia's best. I look forward to working alongside a passionate, committed group of board members, physicians, employees, and healthcare executives to serve the needs of this community."

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