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Katja Ridderbusch


Women Making a Mark: Mary Chatman

Whether entering a boardroom or counseling a young employee eager to make an impression, Dr. Mary Chatman always hears her late father’s voice: “Be your best self, look the part, and never hide.”

The advice has served her well. Chatman is executive vice president of Wellstar Health System and president of Wellstar Kennestone and Windy Hill Hospitals. She’s been recognized as one of the country’s leading healthcare executives. Her team’s most recent accomplishment? Opening the nation’s second-largest emergency department at Wellstar Kennestone in the middle of the pandemic.

Chatman’s leadership style is characterized by her hands-on, pragmatic yet personable approach that goes back to the beginning of her career. She started as a nursing assistant 32 years ago in Greenville, North Carolina, and went on to earn three nursing degrees, including a PhD.

The biggest leadership lesson from her nursing days is that “no matter how fancy your title is, you are never too good to interface with all of your team as a normal person,” she says. “I know what many employees are experiencing because I’ve been there myself.”

During her upward trajectory through the healthcare industry, she’s become proficient in juggling career, family, and self-care. She has a college-age daughter and a high school–age son, and her 79-year-old mother lives with her in Kennesaw. Chatman enjoys watching her son play on his school’s basketball team, encourages her daughter who has Type-1 diabetes to advocate for teens with the same condition, and stays healthy by working out on her Peloton bike or treadmill.

The importance she places on fostering mentorship, encouraging confidence, and nurturing an individual’s goals and ambitions is evident both in her family and work life. She takes particular pride in supporting young women of color. She often shares with her mentees another piece of wisdom she learned from her father: “Don’t question whether you have a seat at the table. Just take your seat.”

Women Making a Mark: Gulshan Harjee

Settling into the stable life of a primary care physician, with conventional hours and well-insured patients, just wasn’t in the cards for Dr. Gulshan Harjee. Instead, after running a thriving medical practice in Decatur, she co-founded Clarkston Community Health Center, where she serves as chief medical officer. Open since 2013, the free clinic provides primary and preventive care for more than 5,500 refugees, immigrants, and uninsured people in metro Atlanta, and the mostly volunteer staff speaks 30 languages.

Harjee can relate to her patients’ often harrowing journeys. Born in Tanzania to
 a family of Ismaili Muslims, a religious minority group in India, she spent her early life fleeing persecution and violence. She lived in Pakistan and Iran before coming to the United States. Atlanta became home after she earned her medical degree from Emory. “I’m the child who’s been raised by the globe,” she says. The free clinic is her way of saying thank you and giving back. She has also established a scholarship fund at Morehouse School of Medicine and works with UNICEF.

Harjee’s patients often struggle with poor health, poverty, language barriers, and lack of transportation. “There are days when I think, Oh my gosh, did I do the right thing? Am I cut out for this?” she says. But she has always kept going. Her next project: a larger building for the growing clinic.

Tragedy, resiliency, and survival have been woven into the fabric of Harjee’s 
life. In 1999, she lost her husband and the father of her two children in a mass shooting in Buckhead. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years later. Today, she’s cancer-free and lives with her second husband in Sandy Springs. Her son is a lawyer in Chicago, and her daughter a medical student in Barbados.

Harjee enjoys traveling, but her true passion outside of the clinic is gardening. “I love digging in the dirt, watching plants grow from a seedling to a huge shrub. I guess that’s therapy for me,” she says.

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