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Dr. Bill Roper will step down as UNC Health Care CEO, medical school dean in May 2019

Dr. Roper is the dean of the UNC School of Medicine and the CEO of UNC Health Care. DTH/Sydney Hanes

UNC announced Thursday that Dr. Bill Roper will be stepping down from his position as CEO of UNC Health Care and dean of the UNC School of Medicine in May 2019.

Roper will have served as CEO and dean for 15 years when he steps down. He said he plans to take a year-long sabbatical then return to UNC as a faculty member in the pediatric department.

Roper is often credited for transforming the UNC Health Care system during his tenure. Since he took the CEO position in 2004, UNC hospitals grew in size and scope across the state, tallying over 30,000 employees in 2017. 

Last year UNC Health Care brought in nearly $5 billion in revenue, up from about $1 billion in 2004. Meanwhile, the UNC School of Medicine reached $441 million in research funding in a 50 percent increase from Roper’s first year as dean. 

Dr. Bill Roper, CEO of UNC Health Care , and U.S. Rep. David Price, D-NC, share a shovel during the ceremonial ground breaking at the UNC Health Care Hillsborough Campus in April 2011.      DTH/Ben Berry

“This is a chaotic time in healthcare,” Roper said of the industry. “Not necessarily in a negative way; there’s just a lot of change and evolution and random movement going on.”

The announcement of Roper’s stepping down certainly comes at a time of evolution for UNC Health Care and the UNC School of Medicine especially. Several developments are in the works, including the renovation of the Mary Ellen Jones building and the construction of a new surgical tower that is scheduled to begin in August. 

However, another would-be accomplishment for Roper collapsed just months ago in early March as a massive deal to partner UNC Health Care with Charlotte Atrium Health broke down. Several months of discussions on the proposed 60-hospital, 90,000-employee joint system ended in Atrium’s withdrawal. 

Roper said his decision to step down is unrelated to the unsuccessful partnership.

But looking forward, Roper still has big ideas for the continued growth of UNC Health Care and the system’s role as a healthcare provider within the state. 

“We are a very important part of the state of North Carolina, and are therefore a proud public institution,” he said. “There are folks in other places, in other institutions, who are trying to distance themselves from the public sector. We’re just the opposite. We’re running to it, embracing it.”

Roper said he hopes UNC Health Care will be able to work closely with state legislators on healthcare policy, expressing that he’d like to see the UNC Health Care system become the state’s healthcare system. Pulling on his own experience in the political sector, he stressed the importance of serving the public and working with government to meet the needs of people.

Though he spoke of his hopes for the future of UNC Health Care broadly, Roper did not hint at potential successors, instead saying that selection was up to the UNC Health Care board, the Board of Governors and the various other bodies involved in choosing the next dean and CEO. He said that decision process could begin as early as June. 


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