Lake Norman & Mooresville

New Novant med center CEO started as nurse

Mike Riley will take the next step in his rapid rise through the ranks of the Novant Health system on July 1, when he replaces Tanya Blackmon as president and CEO of Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center.

Riley, 45, currently president of Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital, came to Novant in 2002 as a nurse, a role he said prepared him well to eventually become a successful executive.

“When you start as a nurse, you kind of have to have a full range of knowledge,” Riley explained.

That includes clinical expertise and the ability to deal with patients and their families on a human level, he added.

“If you just come out of school with an MBA and step into a management position, you don’t have that (mix of experience),” Riley said.

Riley did earn an MBA and and a master’s degree in health administration from Pfeiffer University, but that was after he was well into his career. He originally earned bachelor’s degrees from N.C. State University in English and psychology, an educational combination not exactly in demand in the business world.

“I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll write books about psychology,’” he said with a chuckle.

Riley, who said he’d always been interested in nursing, enrolled at Wake Technical College in Raleigh, where he earned an associate’s degree in nursing.

Riley quickly ascended from nurse, to charge nurse to supervisor and, ultimately, hospital administrator.

“With each job, I always thought, “This is great!’” he said. “Then I’d get promoted, and it would happen all over again.”

The best part of his latest promotion, Riley said, is that it brings him to what he sees as a true community hospital.

“The community really takes ownership of the hospital, and they have pride in it,” he said of suburban and small-town hospitals.

Employees also embrace a community hospital in a unique way, Riley added.

“When they walk out the door, their neighbors are talking about the hospital,” he said. “That makes a difference.”

Riley said one of his first priorities will be immersing himself in the Lake Norman community. He added that the biggest challenge in his new role will be the same one Blackmon said she faced in her time in Huntersville: keeping pace with a rapidly growing population.

“Novant Health Huntersville was built 10 years ago and was licensed as a 50-bed acute care hospital,” said Blackmon, who is taking on a new role as chief diversity and inclusion officer for the entire Novant system. “Today, the hospital is expanding its license to 91 beds.”

Service expansions under Blackmon’s watch included oncology (including a comprehensive breast cancer center, radiation therapy, nurse navigator, counseling, support groups, wig boutique and outpatient infusion center); nurse midwifery program; heart and vascular services (including a wellness center, endovascular lab and heart failure clinic); primary care physician practices; surgical services (including the addition of operating rooms and an ambulatory surgery center); a neonatal intensive care unit; and an expanded intensive care unit.

“The (hospital) team – the providers, the front-line team members and leaders – are amazing and committed to providing excellent care to patients in this community,” Blackmon said.

She added that leaving the Lake Norman community will be just as difficult as leaving Novant Health Huntersville.

“The Lake Norman area ... has just the right mixture of growth and community connectedness,” Blackmon said. “The people are committed to each other, to growth and sustainability, and are welcoming to newcomers.”

John Deem is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for John? Email him at