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UNC Health Care chief to serve as interim president of the university system

UNC President Margaret Spellings will leave March 1

Margaret Spellings will leave her position as the leader of the 17-campus university system on the third anniversary of her arrival to the job. Spellings and Board of Governors Chair, Harry Smith, spoke to the press about the decision on Friday.
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Margaret Spellings will leave her position as the leader of the 17-campus university system on the third anniversary of her arrival to the job. Spellings and Board of Governors Chair, Harry Smith, spoke to the press about the decision on Friday.

The retiring leader of UNC Health Care, Dr. William Roper, is expected to be appointed interim president of the 17-campus university system, succeeding Margaret Spellings.

The UNC Board of Governors has scheduled an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss an executive personnel matter. Roper’s name was first reported Wednesday by Carolina Journal, and two sources confirmed that he is the sole candidate to be put forward for the interim job.

Spellings will step down March 1, it was announced last week. Her departure will come only three years after she assumed the presidency. She said it was the right time for her to leave, and board chairman Harry Smith said the board agreed.

Roper, 70, who is CEO of UNC Health Care and dean of UNC’s medical school, said he would step down in May of next year from his health care positions, which he has held for 14 years. He had planned to return to the Chapel Hill campus in 2020 to teach at the medical school.

William Roper, who held top posts with the Bush and Reagan administrations before turning UNC Health Care into the largest hospital system in the Triangle, steps down

A pediatrician by training, Roper has held high positions in academia, government and private industry.

Under President Ronald Reagan, he was special assistant for health policy, leader of the Medicare system and deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy. Under President George H.W. Bush, he was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also was an executive at a health insurance company.

In 1997, he was appointed dean of UNC-Chapel Hill’s highly ranked public health school, now known as the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Roper presided over a period of expansion at UNC Health Care, which now encompasses a network of 13 hospitals.

He was recently a key player in talks about a partnership between UNC Health Care and Atrium Health, formerly Carolinas HealthCare. The deal collapsed when Atrium pulled out in March after months of negotiations. Some public officials were critics of the proposed partnership out of concern that the state would lose control of the UNC Health Care assets.

UNC Health Care CEO Dr. William Roper tells why he sought to merge with Atrium Health.



Staff researcher David Raynor contributed to this report.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559; @janestancill

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