Ken Pittman

MHA '86

Chief Operating Officer
UNC-Chapel Hill Campus Health Services

What do you do professionally?

After spending nearly 25 years in the hospital sector—including COO of a 300-bed hospital in eastern North Carolina and a turnaround CEO for three different financially challenged hospitals in the South—I am currently COO of the 200 staff member Campus Health Services of UNC-Chapel Hill.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

College students are at such a pivotal point in their physical, psychological and cognitive development. My current position affords me the opportunity to significantly impact and then experience firsthand that development. I also think the integrative health care model we provide—combining physical, psychological, pharmaceutical and therapeutic medicine—is the true patient-centered medical home that private-sector providers, patients and payers are seeking to develop.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

By far my biggest challenge is being a passionate and loyal Blue Devils fan amid a daily sea of Carolina blue. I like to think that those around me are really good people with just one major character flaw!

What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?

My current position requires very little travel, which is actually a welcome change from the seven previous years when I got on a plane every Monday morning and didn't return to the Triangle until Friday evening. I actually loved traveling to the small towns in Texas, Georgia and Alabama where my distressed hospitals were located. I encountered genuine and kind people who embraced their community and appreciated what I could do to help their hospital survive.

What is the best professional advice you've received?

"There is a signficant difference between 20 years experience and 1 year of experience twenty times over." To me this means never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop being grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?

Broadway Star! My summer gigs at Six Flags never got me discovered and, alas, there was no American Idol in my day.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Running, weight training, tennis—when I am not working I want to be moving. I read as much as I can, and I do some playwriting. And of course when the ball is tipped in Cameron or kicked off in Wallace Wade, I am usually there cheering on our Devils.

What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Duke?

There will always be someone smarter and always someone more attractive and always someone more successful by whatever measure you use. The goal is to be YOUR best self because no one else can do that better than you. This may seem trite but if one can embrace this as a mantra, life becomes so much better.

Who was your favorite professor?

During the mid 1980s, the Duke MHA program was in a significant stage of transition and, thank goodness, it evolved into the HSM program at Fuqua. We had some dedicated professors who really worked hard to develop those of us who happened to be at Duke during this chaotic time.  David Warren was my favorite—a Health Law professor who had a gift for teaching and helping us understand how health policy, law and operations were interwoven.

What is your favorite Duke memory?

I fortunately get to continually experience my favorite memories after what is now 27 years since graduation. I loved the time spent with my friends. I developed a particularly close friendship with 10 or so fellow classmates and, through the years, we have remained an integral part of each others' lives. Still get together every couple of years and never miss each others' milestone events. It is by far the greatest gift that Duke has provided me.

What does Team Fuqua mean to you?

Team Fuqua to me is about restless excellence. Excellence in teaching and education and research, and excellence in our contribution and service to business and industry. And certainly excellence in our continual commitment to each other. But constantly restless—with an eye toward always getting better, learning more and being more impactful.