As a teenager, Susan DeVore’s first job was at what is now Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy, where she typed up nursing procedures and hospital policies.
In 2013, as CEO of Premier Inc., DeVore ushered the health solutions company through its $874 million stock market debut, marking the biggest initial public offering for a Charlotte company in at least 35 years.
And on Monday, the 55-year-old Charlotte native accepted Queens University of Charlotte’s 2014 BusinessWoman of the Year award for her work at Premier, which she has led since 2009.
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DeVore was the 30th recipient of the award, which recognizes leaders who exhibit “competence, character and commitment to the community.” Recent winners have included Lynn Good of Duke Energy, Laura Schulte of Wells Fargo and Charlotte Observer Publisher Ann Caulkins.
DeVore has been a “groundbreaker in one of the most complicated, transforming industries that any of us can think of,” Good, the 2013 recipient, said at the awards luncheon at Queens. “That type of environment just demands great leadership. It demands someone who has a vision, who can describe where we’re trying to go with great optimism.”
Along the way as CEO, DeVore expanded Premier’s alliance to include about 3,400 U.S. hospitals and 110,000 providers. The company provides them with consulting services including supply chain solutions, advisory services and integrated data and analytics.
“We’re trying to work with health systems (and) providers to change the way health care is delivered in this country and to make it more affordable, to make it safer and to make it higher quality,” DeVore said.
Asked about her biggest influencers, DeVore cited Premier’s member organizations as well as its 1,700 employees – about 60 percent of whom are based in Charlotte.
“The people on the front line doing the work every day of trying to improve health care, they know everything,” DeVore told the Observer. “If I can just find a way to hear from them and know what they’re thinking, that influences my strategic thinking and it influences my decisions.”
Collaboration with the Premier workforce, DeVore said, comes in the form of new worker orientations, annual conferences, workforce-wide community projects and monthly hour-long meetings with 10 to 15 employees.
“We just all sit around a table and I say, ‘What’s on your mind?’” DeVore said. “It could be internal (or) external, an idea or a question they have about what’s going on in Washington.”
During her acceptance speech, DeVore mentioned family several times as both her biggest source of inspiration and biggest support network. DeVore’s father, for example, started the Carolinas Hospital and Health Services Company, a predecessor of Premier, and she said he long acted as her “health care mentor.”
One of seven children from a Catholic military family that planted roots in Charlotte about 40 years ago, DeVore said she incorporated lessons from childhood to her leadership style in a fast-changing industry.
“When you grow up in a big family, you learn to be adaptable and roll with the punches,” DeVore said.
DeVore, a graduate of South Mecklenburg High School and UNC Charlotte, said one of the first things she wanted to do as CEO was bring Premier’s headquarters to Charlotte from San Diego.
“I travel every week, three or four days, and I can’t wait to get back to Charlotte,” DeVore said. “I love all the things that Charlotte has going on.”
To develop Premier’s young female leaders, DeVore said, the company already has a mentoring program and is in the middle of establishing a women’s network as well.
“I don’t think there’s any difference in skill levels, capabilities or opportunities,” DeVore said. “It’s just a question of how do we bring them up under our wings and help them? It’s really just more mentoring and more flexibility.”