Women Making a Mark: Mary Chatman

This natural leader worked her way up from nursing assistant to EVP of Wellstar Health System

Photo by Martha Williams

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.”