Sampson Regional names interim CEO

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

September 27, 2013

Sampson Regional Medical Center has named its interim leader and is expected to review applicants, both internal and external, in finding a permanent chief executive officer in the coming months.

SRMC’s Board of Trustees has named Shawn Howerton, M.D., as the hospital’s interim chief executive officer. Howerton currently serves as the hospital’s chief medical officer. The board’s decision came just one week after the resignation of David Masterson, who has served as CEO since November 2007.

The official announcement of the interim appointment came Thursday.

“The Board of Trustees looks forward to an orderly transition at SRMC with Dr. Shawn Howerton serving as interim CEO,” said Allie Ray McCullen, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “During his tenure as chief medical officer, Howerton has been a tremendous asset to SRMC.”

Howerton moved to Sampson County with his wife, Dr. Amy Howerton, in 2005 to establish their practice, Howerton Family Medicine in Roseboro. For two years, Howerton has served part time as the hospital’s chief medical officer and has continued practicing in Roseboro.

While maintaining his family medicine practice, Howerton welcomes the opportunity to lead SRMC in an interim capacity.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve the hospital and Sampson County as the interim CEO,” said Howerton. “SRMC has a capable leadership team and dedicated staff that are prepared to navigate upcoming healthcare challenges. We are committed to remaining independent and serving the needs of our community.”

Masterson will remain in his position at SRMC until Nov. 1. In the meantime, he will work alongside Howerton to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.

“As an active member of our medical staff and proven hospital leader, Dr. Howerton is in a unique position to see local healthcare from the provider perspective,” said Masterson. “His oversight of our Performance Improvement programs assures that patient service is a priority for our health organization. He is supported by a very capable team of senior leaders who will continue to support implementation of the organization’s strategic plan without delay. I am leaving the healthcare organization in very capable hands.”

The Board of Trustees intends to review any internal applicants and will also work with an executive recruiting firm to begin the search for a new CEO.

“The Board of Trustees has established a search committee to select a permanent CEO. As representatives of Sampson County residents, the board will be diligent but deliberate in the selection process,” stated McCullen. “It is the goal of our board that SRMC continues providing quality medical services at home.”

Masterson says farewell

Masterson submitted his resignation to the Board of Trustees Sept. 16 and announced by personal letter to all hospital staff, medical staff and the SRMC Foundation’s Board of Directors three days later. Earlier this week, Masterson commented on what he said was a tough decision.

“It was very difficult,” Masterson said. “The timing for the hospital seems to be pretty good. We’ve gotten past all our surveys, we’re Joint Commission accredited, we’ve got physicians coming in, things are being established — it feels like a good time for the hospital to go through this transition.”

For Masterson personally, he has a son who is a senior at Clinton High School so the family is expected to stay in Sampson so he can finish out school in June.

“That puts my family a little bit on delay in the transition, so that will be difficult,” said Masterson. “But just leaving the good people … there have been a lot of nice people and since the (announcement was made) I have had so many sincere, appreciative comments made to me about what I’ve done or my service to Sampson County that it’s very heartwarming.”

Masterson has accepted the position as president of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center in Williamsburg, Va., formerly Norfolk General Hospital, where he started 29 years ago. Masterson will remain committed to SRMC until Nov. 1 and, just last week, told the Board of Trustees he would stay until mid-December if needed.

Under Masterson’s leadership, SRMC has navigated through many challenges such as containing costs during reimbursement changes and healthcare reform, as well as focusing efforts on patient satisfaction, quality initiatives and physician alignment to make SRMC the provider of choice in Sampson County.

“We wish David well in his future pursuits, and our board is thankful for his five years of service to Sampson Regional Medical Center,” McCullen said last week. “He has provided outstanding leadership for our hospital and has made great contributions that have advanced Sampson Regional in the care it provides for our community.”

Along with improving patient satisfaction scores and successes in recruiting new physicians and new specialties to the community, Masterson expressed his pride in seeing the implementation of the hospital’s lean processes, which identifies opportunities for improved efficiency and more savings by eliminating delays and waste in the health system.

“Our lean initiatives have just begun and I think they’re going to take this hospital a long way,” Masterson said. “Probably the most exciting thing, and the thing I have the biggest regret about leaving other than our lean initiatives, is the new affiliation we have with the Campbell University School of Medicine.

He noted the upcoming SRMC Foundation’s gala, whose proceeds will go toward seed money for a Medical Educational Fund that will cultivate that partnership. “We are going to be an affiliate member and training site for physicians,” said Masterson. “Just establishing Sampson Regional as a place to train physicians will be a big step forward in our ability to recruit physicians.”

Just last week, in publicizing the gala, Howerton touted the importance of physician recruitment, which could translate into qualified physicians choosing Sampson County as their home. Masterson said he is glad to have made Sampson his home for the last six years.

“Several people have said that they knew I would be moving on because, as they said, talent doesn’t stay in Sampson County — I couldn’t disagree with that more,” Masterson said. “Sampson County is very worthy of the talent that we see here and we have here. One’s departure from Sampson County has nothing to do with the community itself. I think the community is a great community and a very attractive community for people outside the community to want to come to.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at