Paul Hammes, CEO Recognized as C-Suite Award Winner

Paul Hammes, CEO
Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital 


Why selected: During the pandemic Hammes ensured employees had supplies, staff, and resiliency. He held zoom town hall meetings, recorded educational videos, and met with team members on all shifts. He helped the employee engagement team find ways to recognize and support workers. Early in the pandemic he led efforts to set up drive-through testing, supported the hospital’s role as one of North Carolina’s earliest vaccine providers, and helped develop a team and process to provide monoclonal antibody treatments. He provided pandemic updates to the local Rotary, Yadkin Valley United Fund, and the Chamber of Commerce. He received the Duke Citizenship Award for his response to the pandemic. He helped establish a fund to aid employees and their families during in emergency situations.

If you could have an alternate title, what would it be? Chief Happiness Officer

How long have you worked at your company? 9 years

Where were you born? Athens, Georgia

What was your first job? Dry cleaning and laundry mat attendant

What is the biggest challenge you face as a leader in your company? Leading system change amid complex and rapidly evolving conditions that improves outcomes and builds trust. This begins with a clearly communicated vision for the future. In the military I learned that if a soldier on the front lines is clear on “commander’s intent”, they may single-handedly turn the tide by applying local knowledge and their own ingenuity. Ensuring that each of our team members understands our vision – to be the best community healthcare system in the nation with service as our guiding principle – and feels empowered to apply their own insight and judgment in the care of each of patient is the difference.

What’s your best advice for others stepping into C-Suite roles? Create a culture where your people feel safe speaking up and listen to them. Organizations routinely pay consultants for advice — often before seeking insight from those doing the work. Our internal experts, whose creativity and enthusiasm is inspiring, can teach us a lot! Remember that “the currency of leadership is attention.” C-suite leaders have great latitude with respect to how and when they show up. Presence signals importance and everything isn’t of equal import. Use this currency wisely. Successful senior executives achieve results through influence – not control. There is a fine line between support and disruption when the boss shows up. One of the best leaders I’ve known once observed: “you can learn a lot about someone by letting them fail.” He didn’t mean that carelessly – a good leader would never let someone put themselves, others, or the organization at risk. The point was that arms-length support is necessary if others are to grow and develop through their own decisions and experience.

Hiring is a challenge for many. What’s worked for you in attracting and retaining talent? Being competitive with respect to wages and benefits is not a strategy — that is a starting point. Strategy is about being different. Embracing an authentic, people-centered culture is what we do at Hugh Chatham. What does that mean? We celebrate our work family and the opportunity to have such a meaningful impact on the lives of others across the Yadkin Valley. We honor the diverse perspectives, life experiences, and natural gifts each individual brings to our team. With more than 250,000 patient visits annually across our system, we see and engage with the total person in each patient – valuing their life story and unique needs. A great leader once said “Culture eats strategy for lunch every day of the week.” It’s true!

How do you measure success? Progress is measured in small steps. Long term success follows hard wiring small improvements each day. Hugh Chatham has provided exceptional care for more than 90 years. That requires a clear vision, thoughtful stewardship, and an ability to cultivate authentic relationships with our patients and each other. Imagine the lives that have been improved over nearly a century in the Yadkin Valley and Foothills region of North Carolina. That is success.

What are your hobbies? Playing guitar.


By Carl Wilson – Special Sections Editor/Researcher/Data Reporter, Triad Business Journal

CLICK HERE to view story on Triad Business Journal.


Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital ( is a not-for-profit community health care network of physician clinics and an 81-bed acute care hospital that delivers high quality, convenient health care to residents of the Yadkin Valley and Foothills region of North Carolina and parts of southwestern Virginia. Employing more than 800 team members, Hugh Chatham includes a medical group of more than 50 providers across 27 locations and six counties. Headquartered in Elkin, North Carolina, Hugh Chatham is a leader in using technology to coordinate care for patients and to make healthcare more accessible, and cost-effective.