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Ana-Elis Perry, MBA, MSHA, FACHE

System Executive Director, Supply Chain Operations at UNC Health

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Saying Yes to Challenges Leads to New Opportunities

04/11/2023 06:00AM | 4717 views

Ana-Elis Perry didn’t set out to create a career in healthcare, but found her way there by jumping in and taking on new challenges as the opportunities arose.

If you want to learn from professionals like Perry and hear more success stories in healthcare, make sure to register for the Healthcare in the Age of Personalization Virtual Summit on May3-4!

Perry is executive director of supply chain operations for UNC Health in North Carolina. In this role, she is responsible for the oversight and coordination of several critical areas in the supply chain continuum, including purchasing, distribution/logistics, and performance across the UNC Health System. 

She also serves as the first Latina president for the 2023 term of the Triangle Executives’ Forum (THEF), a nonprofit membership association and an independent chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). THEF brings together clinicians and administrators, payers and providers, and at least four hospital systems for the advancement of healthcare in North Carolina.  

Perry began her career in healthcare in 2001, as the spine fellowship coordinator for Emory University Health System’s Department of Orthopaedics.

Her introduction to healthcare was unintentional. She was at a professional crossroads many years ago, after a career outside the healthcare industry.

“In large part, this change was prompted by my desire to be as present as possible for my family as it began to grow,” she said. “My first position in healthcare was intended to be a temporary solution while I figured out next steps. I never imagined that I would become so passionate about an industry that I knew nothing about and hadn't formally prepared for.”  

After five years in that role, she took on a new challenge serving as administrator for a private orthopaedic practice, where she was responsible for strategic planning, finance, compliance, contract negotiations, human resources and clinical operation.

In 2008, Perry joined WellStar Health System in Georgia, beginning as a physician liaison and eventually moving up to lead the system’s physician relations geographic team working on business development and growth strategies with the medical staff, physician practices, and community hospitals.

While at WellStar, Perry worked with a collaborative team to construct and open a new hospital tower on the system’s flagship campus. In addition, Perry helped foster and maintain relationships with key community stakeholders as part of the system’s five-year master campus planning effort, while assessing internal space planning needs for a 633-bed hospital.

After more than six years with WellStar, she found new opportunities in plasma and blood banking, holding operations leadership positions within the global biopharma industry with the American Red Cross, Grifols, and KEDPLASMA.

She joined UNC Health in 2019 as System Executive Director, Network Development and Physician Relations for UNC Health – and moved into her current role in 2020.

More than two decades after her introduction to healthcare, she still feels the same passion about having the ability to solve problems, innovate, and lead exceptional experts while being able to serve the community. 

“I have been fortunate to have been exposed to a diverse number of opportunities, mentors, and champions along the way,” she said. “It seems that any time I begin to settle into a role, a need is presented in another. That's where the diversity in opportunities comes in to play.”  

She says her “unorthodox trajectory” can only be explained by highlighting the wonderful mentors that have seen the potential and transferrable skill sets that she possessed, and by the relationships that she has been able to form with incredible individuals. 

“Saying yes to each new assignment is always unnerving, because they are typically ambiguous but are equally exciting – given the potential to drive change, innovation, and high performance,” she said. “It is so rewarding to know that my efforts in every role have indirectly supported clinicians so that they are able to provide the best possible care for the patients that we serve.” 

 A Challenging Project, A Chance to Shine

“I have had so many extraordinary experiences throughout my healthcare career journey and am grateful to those that have facilitated my exposure to all of them.”

One experience in particular stands out for her. She was asked to lead a large project that would require working with and engaging a multidisciplinary group in an operations role that was fairly new to her.

“Shout out to my mentor who pushed me in to a metaphorical pool because she knew that I could swim. Thank you! You know who you are!” 

Perry jumped in knowing that this project was highly visible, had a tight timeline, a firm budget, and couldn't fail.

“This was a stretch assignment, to say the least,” she said. “What I didn't know was that I would also have the opportunity to work on the development of a strategic plan and collaborate with civic groups. Those were the best bonuses I could have ever hoped for and the beginning of my love for civic volunteering.”

What started out as a stretch assignment became the roadmap for her personal and professional development. This opportunity unlocked roles for her in business development, healthcare operations, and healthcare adjacent roles that may not have been accessible to her without the experience and exposure she was able to gain through that project.  

“Since then, I strive to affect those that I mentor and support in the same way with opportunities that may not match perfectly with experience but do match skill set and ability. I am thrilled to continue to work on improving access to healthcare in my primary and volunteer roles. There is plenty of work to be done and I am encouraged by my colleagues' commitment to the same mission.”

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